The Moscow Puzzles: 359 Mathematical Recreations, by Boris A. Kordemsky, edited by Martin Gardner, Dover Publishing Company, New York, New York, 2014. 320 pp., $14.50 (paper). ISBN 9780486270784.
Most of the puzzles in this collection have appeared in some form in many other publications, both in print and online. For example, number 11 is the classic, “Wolf, Goat and Cabbage” problem that can be traced back to writings in the eighth century. There are cryptarithms, designs with matches, dissections, logic problems in textual form, problems with dominoes, number crossword puzzles, puzzles involving magic squares, number puzzles and properties and a few involving chess and checkers.
Although the puzzles are generally old and have been frequently used that is a tribute to their quality rather than an indication that they are stale and out of date. Instructors from the level of high elementary school all the way through college will be able to find items that they can use in their classes to challenge the students.
When I was in the sixth grade the math teacher posed a series of puzzles to the class and it was a competitive contest to solve them as the names of the solvers were posted on the board. All were within the capabilities of the class and we enjoyed the challenge and the thrill of solution. Some of the problems in this collection could have been used in that contest.
Study after study has demonstrated that the older person that continues to pursue mental challenges remains much more functional in the cognitive sense than the person that simply goes mentally passive. While it of course cannot solve all problems of losing mental acuity as you age, there are enough challenges in this book to help keep the neurons firing at a high level.
This review was first published on the Mathematical Association of America book reviews site.