Monday, August 20, 2012

Sudoku... Math In Disguise?

 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Tanya Khovanova just now got around to reviewing Jason Rosenhouse and Laura Taalman's "Taking Sudoku Seriously" (I'll let you guess what it's about ;-)) She, as others, gives it a very favorable review:

http://blog.tanyakhovanova.com/?p=418

I've not read the volume, as I've never much cared for Sudoku, but based on Rosenhouse's previous fantastic book "The Monty Hall Problem" (I'll let you guess what it's about also), have no doubt it's a good read. One line in Khovanova's review caught my eye a little bit:
"The book is written for people who like Sudoku, but hate math. This is so strange. Sudoku is math. People who are good at Sudoku are good at math, or at least they are supposed to be."
Actually, the majority of Sudoku 'addicts' I've known have little advanced math skills. And I've always had difficulty with this concept of Sudoku as "math." Sudoku of course involves "logic," and could be done with any set of 9 symbols/objects: letters of the alphabet, hieroglyphics, colors, whatever, (numbers are handy but unnecessary)... but doesn't involve doing math or computation, nor high-level abstraction. Still, Keith Devlin reviewing the same volume months ago made the very same point as Khovanova (of Sudoku as math) noting that the book could help the reader "come to understand the nature of mathematics" though also admitting it Sudoku was "mathematics in significantly diminished form." And I wouldn't want to ever be on the opposite side of Keith in a debate! His review is a great read itself, by the way:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577173022950738492.html

Moreover, I've just discovered that Wikipedia has a wonderful page dedicated to the "Mathematics of Sudoku" here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematics_of_Sudoku

So perhaps I need to read the book to better comprehend this connection!