Saturday, February 6, 2016

Review of "Have Some Sums To Solve: The Compleat Alphametics Book," by Steven Kahan

Review of

Have Some Sums To Solve: The Compleat Alphametics Book, by Steven Kahan, Baywood Publishing Company, Farmingdale, NY, 1978. 114 pp. (paperback), ISBN 0895030071.

 Steven Kahan was the first and only editor of the aphametics column of Journal of Recreational Mathematics, creating, editing and solving what has to be thousands of puzzles. The alphametic is a simple arithmetic puzzle, where letters replace digits in a 1-1 manner in an arithmetic operation and the solver has to deduce what the numbers are. In the best ones, the letters form words that combine for a meaningful message. See the attached image for an example.
 One of the primary advantages of this type of puzzle is that they are essentially logic problems that can be modeled by simple decision trees. By modifying the parameters, the difficulty can be adjusted so that they can be used in math classes from elementary school to college algebra. I have also used them as basic programming exercises requiring nested loops.
 This book can be considered either a set of alphametics to solve or as a primer on how to solve this type of problem. There are three sections, the first where the problems are stated, a second where the solution strategies are described and then the third where the solutions are given.
 If you are a fan of logic puzzles that are based on the rules of arithmetic, you will likely find these alphametics entertaining and challenging in the doable sense.

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