Professor Steven Johnson had a fun idea for a math department community and outreach event. Since puzzles and games are a common recreation for the math-inclined, he reasoned that a “Puzzles Social” could be an ideal community format for both the MIT math community and for non-committed majors, who might consider math as a first or second major.
The first Math Puzzles Social was first held in February 2018 at Walker Memorial, and since then are regularly held in the department’s Norbert Wiener Common Room. The room is filled with students, postdocs, and faculty partnering up to solve games of strategy, dexterity, and logic. Fames include mechanical puzzles that need to be untangled or arranged, and obscure games such as Le Passe-Trappe and Qorridor that stump even the brightest students. The games staff don’t provide instructions, so part of the fun is figuring out the goals and rules.
“Mathematicians love games,” says Professor Johnson. “That was the larger idea behind the puzzles night: to bring together not only the department’s math students and faculty, but to also attract other MIT students who might want to consider the math major.”
The Math Puzzles Social is supported by a grant from MindHandHeart, a coalition of students, faculty, and staff, and co-sponsored by the Office of the Chancellor and MIT Medical, with the goal “to strengthen the fabric of our MIT community.”