The ultimate math puzzle reading list

When it comes to numbers, we won’t ask you to read too much—and these game books are worth it

At the MIT Press, the only thing we love more than a book about math is a book about mathematical puzzles and patterns. To celebrate mathematics in all its forms, we gathered some of our favorites—including a book on unsolved mathematical mysteries, a math-themed coloring book, and an exploration of mathematical sequences in the natural world.

Explore these and more math-related puzzle books below, and sign up for our newsletter to hear more about our latest initiatives.

The Price of Cake: And 99 Other Classic Mathematical Riddles by Clément Deslandes and Guillaume Deslandes

In The Price of Cake, brothers Clément and Guillaume Deslandes have assembled a uniquely rich and accessible collection of mathematical riddles, organized by difficulty and accompanied by unique hand-drawn illustrations. The challenges are exceptional in both their range and their precision. There are no “tricks” here—just good math to test your skills. Entertaining and rigorous in equal measure, The Price of Cake is bound to captivate mathematics enthusiasts and students of all levels.

“Looking for delight, intrigue, wonder, and awe in mathematics? Look no further.” —James Tanton, Mathematical Association of America

Mage Merlin’s Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries by Satyan Linus Devadoss and Matthew Harvey

Most people think of mathematics as a set of useful tools designed to answer analytical questions, beginning with simple arithmetic and ending with advanced calculus. But, as Mage Merlin’s Unsolved Mathematical Mysteries shows, mathematics is filled with intriguing mysteries that take us to the edge of the unknown. This richly illustrated, story-driven volume presents sixteen of today’s greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles, all understandable by anyone with elementary math skills. These intriguing mysteries are presented to readers as puzzles that have time-traveled from Camelot, preserved in the notebook of Merlin, the wise magician in King Arthur’s court.

“This book is wonderfully unique—an irresistible call to join the quest for the treasures of mathematics.” —Tai-Danae Bradley, coauthor of Topology

Raven’s Hat: Fallen Pictures, Rising Sequences, and Other Mathematical Games by Jonas Peters and Nicolai Meinshausen

This book presents a series of engaging games that seem unsolvable—but can be solved when they are translated into mathematical terms. How can players find their ID cards when the cards are distributed randomly among twenty boxes? By applying the theory of permutations. How can a player guess the color of her own hat when she can only see other players’ hats? Hamming codes, which are used in communication technologies. Like magic, mathematics solves the apparently unsolvable. The games allow readers, including university students or anyone with high school–level math, to experience the joy of mathematical discovery.

“A wonderful book for someone who likes mathematics and likes to be challenged!” —Chris Bernhardt, author of Quantum Computing for Everyone

Beautiful Symmetry: A Coloring Book about Math by Alex Berke

Beautiful Symmetry is a coloring book about math, inviting us to engage with mathematical concepts visually through coloring challenges and visual puzzles. We can explore symmetry and the beauty of mathematics playfully, coloring through ideas usually reserved for advanced courses. The book is for children and adults, for math nerds and math avoiders, for educators, students, and coloring enthusiasts.

“This is deep math without numbers, equations, or answers. It is an invitation to feel math, viscerally, as a starting point or as an end in itself.” —Eugenia Cheng, author of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World

Sleight of Mind: 75 Ingenious Paradoxes in Mathematics, Physics, and Philosophy by Matt Cook

Paradox is a sophisticated kind of magic trick. A magician’s purpose is to create the appearance of impossibility, to pull a rabbit from an empty hat. Yet paradox doesn’t require tangibles, like rabbits or hats. Paradox works in the abstract, with words and concepts and symbols, to create the illusion of contradiction. There are no contradictions in reality, but there can appear to be. In Sleight of Mind, Matt Cook and a few collaborators dive deeply into more than 75 paradoxes in mathematics, physics, philosophy, and the social sciences. As each paradox is discussed and resolved, Cook helps readers discover the meaning of knowledge and the proper formation of concepts—and how reason can dispel the illusion of contradiction.

“In this fun, brain-twisting book, Matt Cook and collaborators examine an impressive list of apparently self-contradictory scenarios, only to explain away the puzzles using logic and science.” —Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist and New York Times bestselling author of Something Deeply Hidden

The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World by Ian Stewart

From a zebra’s stripes to a spider’s web, from sand dunes to snowflakes, nature is full of patterns underlaid by mathematical principles. In The Beauty of Numbers in Nature, Ian Stewart shows how life forms from the principles of mathematics. Each chapter explores a different kind of patterning system and its mathematical underpinnings. In doing so, the book also uncovers some universal patterns—both in nature and made by humans—from the basic geometry of ancient Greece to the complexities of fractals.

Explore more MIT Press books on mathematics