June 1 Day 85: Puzzles and Play

I have four more days of remote teaching this quarter, not including final exams. It has been a long haul since this journey began March 9 but I see the finish line within my sights and I can keep pushing through to the end.

It can be hard to concentrate through isolation and the current chaos in the world. In my free moments when I can no longer read the news, I find solace in playing with puzzles. Francis Su, Past-president of the MAA and author of Mathematics for Human Flourishing, explains the value of play beautifully:

And mathematical play builds virtues that enable us to flourish in every area of our lives.  For instance, math play builds hopefulness: when you sit with a puzzle long enough you are exercising hope that you will eventually solve it.  Math play builds community—when you share in the delight of working on a problem with another human being.  And math play builds perseverance—just as weekly soccer practices build up the muscles that make us stronger for the next game, weekly math investigations make us more fit for the next problem whatever that is, even if we don’t solve the current problem. 


So if you need a playful distration, here are a few resources for all ages:

I must thank Alex Bellos for basing one of today’s puzzles on the first of my Zoom placement posts. It has been a record day for people visiting this blog. Since navigating the site is not so easy, I thought a post to direct visitors to the zoom questions directly might be useful:

If you have more time to spare, try to solve a puzzle or two (or maybe read Francis’s wonderful book). We all need more hope, community, and perseverance in this time of corona.

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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