A Quarter-Century of Recreational Mathematics; August 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Gardner; 8 Page(s)
My "Mathematical Games" column began in the December 1956 issue of Scientific American with an article on hexaflexagons. These curious structures, created by folding an ordinary strip of paper into a hexagon and then gluing the ends together, could be turned inside out repeatedly, revealing one or more hidden faces. The structures were invented in 1939 by a group of Princeton University graduate students. Hexaflexagons are fun to play with, but more important, they show the link between recreational puzzles and "serious" mathematics: one of their inventors was Richard Feynman, who went on to become one of the most famous theoretical physicists of the century.
At the time I started my column, only a few books on recreational mathematics were in print. The classic of the genre--Mathematical Recreations and Essays, written by the eminent English mathematician W. W. Rouse Ball in 1892--was available in a version updated by another legendary figure, the Canadian geometer H.S.M. Coxeter. Dover Publications had put out a translation from the French of La Math¿matique des Jeux (Mathematical Recreations), by Belgian number theorist Maurice Kraitchik. But aside from a few other puzzle collections, that was about it.