Puzzles and Mathematics

  • Marcel Danesi
Part of the Mathematics in Mind book series (MATHMIN)


The English word puzzle covers a broad range of meanings, alluding to everything from riddles and crosswords to Sudoku, optical illusions, and difficult conundrums in advanced mathematics. As a generic categorical label, it is a convenient one for classifying diverse manifestations of what is arguably a singular psychological phenomenon, which can be called the ludic mind, that is, a mind that grasps or models ideas through some form of creative intellectual play. The word puzzle was first used to describe a game in a forgotten book published by a certain Abram Kendall around 1595, titled The Voyage of Robert Dudley Afterwards Styled Earl of Warwick & Leicester and Duke of Northumberland (Warner 2015). It derives from the Middle English word poselen “to bewilder, confuse,” a definition that certainly can be applied to most of the classic mathematical puzzles.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcel Danesi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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