Top of page

Mathematical Games of Martin Gardner Part 1

Share this post:

Penrose tile portrait of Martin Gardner by Bruce Torrence.
Martin Gardner – Puzzlemaster, by Bruce Torrence. August 12, 2010. Licensed under Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0.

One of the special things about April other than the showers that bring May flowers, is that April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month (MSAM). MSAM is a program produced by the Joint Policy Board for Mathematics, which itself is a collaboration between the American Mathematical Society, the American Statistical Association, the Mathematical Association of America, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. The goal of this program is to excite the public, both students and non-students, about the wonders of math. As many other programs have done over the past year, the Board does not recommend gathering in groups to celebrate but instead getting involved by using #MathStatMonth on social media outlets.

During the month of April we will be posting blogs inspired by one of the masters of recreational mathematics, Martin Gardner (1914-2010). His monthly column “Mathematical Games,” which was a regular feature of Scientific American for 25 years, brought recreational mathematics to millions of people. He originally worked in children’s publishing, but became a fierce advocate for including math games into both elementary and secondary education curricula. Gardner believed incorporating them would give students an exciting way to interact with the subject.

Over the course of his 25 years with Scientific American, Gardner introduced his audience to subjects such as polyominoes, the Lamé curve, and Newcomb’s paradox through the use of hundreds of games and puzzles.

Mathematical games come in a variety of types so it’s pretty easy to find one you like. My favorite is the rep-tile, which as the name implies, is a tile that repeats and is configured in a certain way to create a replica of the original tile. As an example, here is a completed triangle rep-tile:

An example of a completed rep-tile using a triangle.

Try it out on the following tile and let us know in the comments how it went or submit your own rep-tiles for us to puzzle over! A new game will be included in each week’s post with the answer of the previous week’s puzzle.

Create copies of this polygon and arrange them so they form a replica of the original shape. Be sure to let us know how you did in the comments!

Do you want more stories like this? Then subscribe to Inside Adams — it’s free!


  1. I’m interested in the mathematics of air, lightning ,and thunder!

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.