University of Calgary

Math like you've never experienced before

UToday HomeMarch 21, 2013

The Eugene Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection is on display until the end of March at the Centre for Arts and Culture in the Taylor Family Digital Library. Photos by Marie-Helene ThibeaultThe Eugene Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection is on display until the end of March at the Centre for Arts and Culture in the Taylor Family Digital Library. Photos by Marie-Helene ThibeaultForget about those painful high school calculus classes. As you’ll discover by exploring the Eugene Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection on display until the end of March in the Taylor Family Digital Library, math can actually be fun!

Aimed at a broad audience, the exhibit features pieces dating back to the 17th century and includes books, periodicals, puzzles, games, kaleidoscopes, illustrations and even a lithograph by illusionary artist M.C. Escher.

The collection also features original copies of correspondences between prominent American recreational mathematicians of the 1970s such as Charles W. Trigg, Wade Philpott, Martin Gardner, William Schaaf, and Leon Bankoff. Some of the literary exchanges showcased are highlighted by still unresolved mathematical challenges. Their archival papers can be browsed at specialcollections.ucalgary.ca/manuscripts/math.

The field of recreational mathematics has a long tradition going back to 2200 BC, when Chinese mathematicians crafted a magic square called the lo-shu as a means to recreate, educate and entertain.

The tradition of passing time with fun mathematical challenges carried on through the Egyptian times with the Rhind Papyrus around 1800 BC and continued all the way to modern times. Today’s X and Y generations may associate recreational mathematics to such games as the infamous Rubik’s cube.

The Eugene Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection was started in the 1980s by Eugene Strens. Born in 1899 in Roermond in southern Netherlands, Strens was a Dutch engineer, amateur mathematician, meteorologist and astronomer who also shared an interest in bookplates, chess and recreational mathematics. He died in 1980.

The Eugene Strens Recreational Mathematics Collection was acquired through the dedication and generosity of University of Calgary professor emeritus in mathematics Richard Guy, Louise Guy, the estate of Eugene Strens, and many other individuals who established the original collection. It has since grown to over 3,000 books and other items and objects. The donors’ intention is that the collection be used for enjoyment, research and teaching by anyone.

This exhibit — on display at the Centre for Arts and Culture, on the 5th floor of the TFDL — in particular will appeal to the mathematician at heart: history fans, literary students, special interest groups and event arts enthusiasts.

For more information about the collection, send an inquiry to archives@ucalgary.ca.

        Mathematics

 

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