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The Art of Mathematics – Take Two

Béla Bollobás
Cambridge University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Problem Book
[Reviewed by
Andrzej Sokolowski
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The appealing title The Art of Mathematics – Take Two: Tea Time in Cambridge, of the book by Bela Bollobas, will not disappoint the readers. The book's content will transfer the readers back several centuries and offer examples of math problems that trigger the readers' curiosity and excitement to find solutions. The book does not follow a traditional book sequence of specific math concepts that are organized in increasing complexity. Instead, it presents loosely arranged problems that should inspire the reader to search and explore more problems of such kinds. 
The book comprises three sections; (a) the contents consisting of more than one-hundredth problems, (b) the hints for the reader to solve these problems, and (c) the solutions. Most of the book volume, about 90%, is designated for the solution processes. The author took care of titling the problems using their original context-related titles or dressing up some of the problems in titles that encourage the readers to disclose the mystery of their design and find the keys to their answers. For instance, The Monkey and the Coconuts, Gambler's Ruin, or One Hundred Players are some that surely will attract readers, especially those who are unfamiliar with their existence. The readers will not find exhausted hints. For instance, to solve problem 68, only one hint parity is offered. Thus, instead of introducing the details, the book will direct the readers to certain math areas to select tools or identify embedded math concepts by themselves. The solutions are detailed and often accompanied by geometrical diagrams or pictures of the mathematicians who created them.
Justified by the math content, the book draws on applying properties of geometry, sequences, and series, omitting contemporary mathematics of limit interpretations, function continuity, rate of change, and accumulation. It seems that including problems regarding these math concepts could attract a broader range of audiences. Nevertheless, the book intends to spark enjoyment in mathematics and inspire readers to extend math explorations beyond the book's scope is easily achievable. 


Andrzej Sokolowski, Ph.D., is the author of several books and journal papers on developing students' mathematical reasoning skills to enhance their understanding of math applications, especially in physics. He is also a mathematics and physics professor at Lone Star College, TX, USA.