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Games and recreational mathematics and their use in education

CETL-MSOR Conference 2018, University of Glasgow (05/09/2018). With Edd Smith.

There is a long history of games and puzzles supporting the development of mathematics. Indeed, much 'serious' mathematics originated in games and recreations. Evidence is presented from the research literature of the role of game play in the development of mathematical thinking and skills. Recreational mathematics is defined, which is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. A discussion is offered of the use of recreational mathematics in developing mathematical thinking and supporting the study of mathematics concepts throughout the higher education curriculum. The presentation then outlines the design and development of a new final year, optional module 'Game Theory and Recreational Mathematics'. This aims to develop an appreciation of the historical development of game theory and recreational mathematics and their relation to mathematics in general, as well as developing problem-solving skills and understanding of mathematical topics (combinatorial game theory, graph theory, combinatorics, computation and complexity) through games and recreational mathematics. We argue that games and recreations are a suitable mechanism to develop these topics that is popular with students.