A book of deep, easy-to-play mathematical games (and why they matter).

I’ve been thinking a lot about games lately. Well… if “thinking” is the right word for this.

But it’s not just silly cartoons. It’s because my new book is all about mathematical games.

It’s a friendly book. A yellow book. A tall book. In short: a Big Bird kind of book. It arrives on April 5th, and it is now yours to preorder:

Math Games with Bad Drawings: 75 1/4 Simple, Challenging, Go-Anywhere Games — And Why They Matter.

I devoted two back-breaking years to researching this thing. At times, I feared I would not make it. How could I withstand so many pleasant diversions? So many hidden gems, each taking a minute to learn and a lifetime to master? Such endless hours of thought-provoking fun, requiring only materials you already have at home? It was week after week after week of relentless, agonizing enjoyment. The soul is only so strong.

But I persevered. From over a thousand candidates, I emerged with several dozen of the finest mathematical games that humans have yet devised.

They come from Japanese schoolyards, Parisian universities, and Argentine puzzle magazines.

Amazons, by Walter Zamkauskas

They come from devoted educators, shameless self-promoters, and humble hobbyists.

Prophecies, by Andy Juell

They come from yours truly and trues yoursly.

Caveat Emptor, by Ben Orlin

Best of all, each game doubles as a fresh lesson in how play brings out the best in human thought.

From the chapter on Prophecies.

The early reviews are already making me blush:

  • Hyperbole and a Half‘s Allie Brosh said “I’m loving this” and fondly compared it to “a pill pocket for math.”
  • Mindscape‘s Sean Carroll said it “reveals where the fun [of math] has been lurking all along.”
  • Stanford’s Jo Boaler called it “a wonderful mix of informed, funny, and creative” and said “I will carry this with me everywhere, and my mathematical thinking will be better because of it.”
  • My two-year-old Casey, upon first seeing it, dubbed it “my book.” She added: “I wrote this book,” and then, pointing to the cover: “I draw this.”

High praise indeed. This is my third book (Casey’s first), and I know I always say this, but I really think it’s my best one yet.

You can preorder in all the usual places, but I’m especially excited about the deluxe package on Kickstarter: your preordered copy will come signed (by me; alas, ErnΕ‘ Rubik was unavailable), along with a plethora of bonus cards, and the chance to win a new game designed in your honor.

(The Kickstarter is U.S.-only, by the way; my apologies to folks elsewhere.)

One of three delightful bonus card games you’ll receive if you buy the book on Kickstarter.

I could give you the usual spiel here: how preorders count toward first-week sales, which are a book’s lifeblood, which makes them an author’s lifeblood, which is almost enough to attenuate the creepiness of the word “lifeblood.” But I’ll spare you that. Yes, my career (and Casey’s pineapple budget) require me to sell books. But don’t buy this one for me. (I already have a copy.) Buy it for yourself. Buy it for a friend, a game-playing partner, a student, a teacher. Buy it for someone who loves math, someone who loves games, someone who loves Big Bird. Heck, buy a copy for Big Bird himself.

Anyway, thanks for checking it out. I’ll be back to actual blog posts soon, I promise. And one last time, here’s the Kickstarter!

19 thoughts on “A book of deep, easy-to-play mathematical games (and why they matter).

    1. Yes! If you want multiple copies on Kickstarter, just back at the $29 level, and then you can select additional copies (up to 10, I believe) as “add ons.” Each copy will come signed and with the bonus cards.

  1. Hi Ben,
    I’d really love to back your book, but I’m not a resident of the USA. Is there nonetheless a possibility to get the book and the bonus cards?
    Best wishes from the other side of the ocean!

    1. Thanks so much for asking! The bad news is that the Kickstarter (and thus the bonus cards) are only available in the U.S.. The good news is that the book is available on Amazon, or wherever you like to buy books. The medium news is that you can get digital copies of the bonus cards by backing the Kickstarter at the $1 level. My apologies for the geographic limits of the Kickstarter!

    2. Hi Nebulesse, thanks for the message! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to figure out international shipping for the signed books and bonus cards, so I’m afraid the best I can propose is to order the book from Amazon or wherever you like to get books, and then back the Kickstarter at the $1 level to get the digital versions of the bonus cards. Apologies for not being able to get the physical stuff to you!

  2. Math with Bad Drawings is blue. Change is the Only Constant is Red. This book is yellow. You have run out of primary colors. What color will the next one be? πŸ˜›

    (Very much looking forward to this one, by the way. It looks like great fun for my daughter and me.)

    1. What are you talking about. Everyone knows the primary colors are cyan, magenta, yellow, and black

  3. Hi Ben! Just got my signed book today! Absolutely LOVE it! I am also supposed to get the two card sets (“Triumphs in Mediocrity” and “Win, Lose, Banana”) as well as the postcard “Rock, Paper, Scissors, etc.”, and I’m supposed to get a hand-drawn stick figure —- do those come to me separately? I suppose so but just wondering if you know….. thanks for all you do! Looking forward to the rest of my treasures to come! Take care! πŸ™‚ Jeanne

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