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Joy of Mathematical Problem Solving

This website is a resource for anyone who wants to enjoy creative math problem solving. Math games, puzzles, magic tricks and interesting real life contexts can be used to cultivate love for creative math problem solving.

For ages, people have enjoyed activities such as games, puzzles and magic shows. Therefore, it is not surprising to find students enjoying similar activities based on mathematics.Underlying reasons why we enjoy games, puzzles and magic are somewhat different. Games let us be actors experiencing a fantasy world and pursuing goals where there is low cost associated with the failures. In contrast, puzzles shift the brain into an open, playful and curious state. Puzzles are reassuringly soluble; but like any serious problem, they require more than mere intellect to crack. It’s all about you, using your own mind, without any method or schema, to restore order from chaos. In contract, Magic tricks provoke an awe in us. Finally, there can be real life contexts that are of great interest to us and we may enjoy learning about these. If such contexts involve creative problem solving, doing math problem solving in these context can be an enjoyable experience. Examples of contexts that may fascinate some students include problems in sports, space and aeronautics.

How do we nurture our instinctive love of puzzles, games and magic tricks so that we enjoy creative math problem solving?

Given math problem that provokes our curiosity, that provides right level of challenge for us, that needs us to do exploratory reasoning, we can enjoy creativity in math problem solving as well. For many students, this involves cultivation of right attitude and practice. However, everyone is capable of enjoying the process of mathematical thinking that involves thinking about mathematical problems, observing beautiful mathematical patterns, coming up with elegant insights, facing hard problems that you may or may not be able to solve, thrill of progressing on such problems and solving these, reflecting mathematical thinking and learning from your successes and failures. Then, you have an activity you can enjoy wherever you areand joy of creative thinking is all you need to motivate yourselves to get going on any challenging math problem. Popularity of Sudoku and KenKen puzzle are clear indication of that.