An account of a curious mathematical problem and its originator, Thomas Kirkham

Dick Tahta

PRICE: 11.95


ISBN 1900 355 485

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  "Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of mathematics at Cambridge, a position once held by Isaac Newton." Dr Stephen Hawking

This book presents an historical account of a famous mathematical problem, The Fifteen Schoolgirls, and some of the ways it has been generalised and eventually solved. It also surveys some of the other work of a remarkable nineteenth-century polymath.

The puzzle arose from Thomas Kirkman’s studies on a more general mathematical problem which involved various combinatorial ideas that have now become of importance and his interest in a range of other mathematics, such as the theory of polyhedra, the newly developing theory of groups, and the classification of knots – all of which Tahta explores with the fascination of both a mathematician and historian of science.

Named by the theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, as the teacher who had most inspired him, Dick Tahta was one of the outstanding mathematics educators of his generation. Lecturing at Exeter University, he was a leading member of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics and part of the ATM collective that wrote the influential books Some Lessons in Mathematics, Notes on Mathematics in Primary Schools and Mathematical Reflections. He founded and edited the ATM journal Recognitions, and was co-editor of another ATM publication, Mathematics Teaching.


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