You are here

First Course in Algorithms Through Puzzles

Ryuhei Uehara
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Allen Stenger
, on

This is a first course in computer-science algorithms, aimed at undergraduates. It was published in Japanese in 2013 and in English in 2018. The title is misleading: The book does consider and solve several puzzles (the Tower of Hanoi, the Eight Queens Problem, and the Knight’s Tour Problem), but these comprise only about 10% or 15% of the book. For the most part, it is a conventional and straightforward introduction to algorithms.

The puzzle parts are the best part of the book. They are concrete, well-explained, and well-motivated, as well as being rigorous computer science. The rest of the book is typical of introductory algorithm texts and tends to describe and analyze the algorithms abstractly, without much discussion of applications or implementation details.

There are 42 exercises scattered through the book. Most of these ask the reader to work out something in detail that is mentioned or hinted at in the body. Most of these are not very difficult, but they do require some thought. Complete solutions are in the back of the book.

There’s no translator credit, so it was presumably translated by the author. The English is correct and understandable, with only a few unidiomatic spots. One bad spot is on p. 84 where bubble sort is claimed to be fast if there are “quite a few elements”; this should be “few elements”, as is made clear from the surrounding discussion. There’s another glitch (also on p. 84) where there is a reference to a book titled “Algorithm Introduction” that is used at MIT; I think this means Cormen et al.’s Introduction to Algorithms, which is listed in the references.

Allen Stenger is a math hobbyist and retired software developer. He is an editor of the Missouri Journal of Mathematical Sciences. His personal web page is His mathematical interests are number theory and classical analysis.