Recreational Mathematics


Recreational mathematics is very hard to define. I like to think it is related to the study of non-standard problems or to the study of well-known problems with unusual approaches (as mentioned by David Singmaster, «(...) recreational mathematics is mathematics that is fun and used as either as a diversion from serious mathematics or as a way of making serious mathematics understandable or palatable (...) here»). While it may serve as a bridge to the discovery of very important concepts, the utility is not the basic concern: insight, imagination and beauty is what matters (although it is useful!). The chess player Richard Reti defined chess study as a position with «extraordinary ideas ». I feel that this idea of ​​«extraordinary» is the key to understand recreational mathematics. Wikipedia tells us that «recreational mathematics is an umbrella term, referring to mathematical puzzles and mathematical games». This view is too simplistic.

Historically, we know that some areas of mathematics are strongly linked to recreational mathematics - probability, graph theory, number theory, etc. Thus, recreational mathematics can also be very serious. Many professional mathematicians confessed that his love for math was gained when reading the artcicles by Martin Gardner in Scientific American - Richard Guy said  «[He] brought more mathematics to more millions than anyone else »than anyone else».

Four international conferences have been organized in Portugal dedicated to the subject: