Top Rated Product

In <strong>The Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving</strong>, award-winning Professor Paul Zeitz conducts you through scores of problems at all levels of difficulty. More than a bag of math tricks, these 24 lectures reveal strategies, tactics, and tools for overcoming mathematical obstacles in fields such as algebra, geometry, combinatorics, and number theory. This course is the perfect way to sharpen your mind, think more creatively, and tackle intellectual challenges you might never have imagined.

Average Customer Rating:

4.4

out of 5

(20 Reviews) 19
Rating Snapshot (20 reviews)

5 stars

15

4 stars

2

3 stars

1

2 stars

1

1 star

1

"17 of 20(85%)reviewers would recommend the course to a friend."

Customer Reviews for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Review 1 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

3
out of
5

Course Content:

3
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

3
out of
5

NYNM

Location:NY, NY

I'm not sure what to make of this course

Date:February 1, 2010

"This is a very unusual course. As the tile says, It is based on Mathematical Problem Solving. In fact that is all it is about.

Zeitz, who proudly describes himself as a "math nerd" has been involved in numerous math competitiions and math "olympics" around the world, and coaches young teams in math contests.The TTC course is basically a collection of the types or problems/puzzles in these competitions and an overview of how he teaches his students to solve them.

He gives the viewer numerous opportunities to solve the puzzle ("Use the pause button", he says). Then he gives an explanation of one approach, usually involving graphics (algebra, number theory, graphing, symmetry, etc.). He also give a lecture of the "culture" of math problem-solvers, especially in Bulgaria.

I may be a nerd, but I'm not a math nerd, and was quickly lost. I was able to approach some problesm intuitively but my answers were usually incorrect. I wanted to try to keep up but just felt defeated. Zeitz suggested problems that he says can take hours and days to solve. Clearly, this course became quickly obscure and impractical. There was no "carry-over" to"real-life" or other math courses, or even much "content" to the course.

Now, I suspect that for those viewers who like a challenge and like math, this is a really "fun" course. Or rather, a collection of puzzles,because it isn't really a "course." I think a lot of viewers would enjoy it. But I would think that many others would be befuddled.."

+81points

84out of 87found this review helpful.

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Review 2 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

4
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

3
out of
5

SJMD

Location:San Jose, CA

Thinking outside the box

Date:June 13, 2012

"This was a very interesting course. It is unlikley to be of value to the average TC student but high school math students or anyone interested in math will find it fascinating. None the less, I could not stop watching it!

The professor is very well informed, clear, and has an excellent presentation style. It was incredible to see math problems be transformed to pictorial, diagramatic, or graphic problems and be solved within a few seconds. If one is interested in what outside-the-box thinking looks like, this is it."

+15points

16out of 17found this review helpful.

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Review 3 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

TorryZ

Location:Toronto

Motivational for children

Date:December 16, 2012

"Great experience. Wealth of techniques to learn. Wide range of difficulty levels of the problems allow listeners with more/less math background and ability to find a solution and feel good about themselves once in a while. Very motivational for children. My kids, 10 and 12, referred on several occasions to material covered in the lectures."

+19points

19out of 19found this review helpful.

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Review 4 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

4
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

George

Location:Melbourne, Australia

a little different

Date:February 22, 2010

"Like previous reviewers I was not sure what to expect with these lectures.

The intial lectures were a little disjoint and Prof Zeitz did labor on the difference between tactics and stategy too much. In the end, it did not seem to me the distinction mattered that much.

Then each lecture addressed a specific type of problem and showed techniques to solve these problems. With each technique the appropriate mathematical back ground was explained well. However, there are some jumps in logic i did not follow and you will need to hit pause a lot for some of the explanation to sink in.

Overall, this is the first set of lectures I've seen that attempts to address problem solving. For his creative approach Prof Zeitz should be congratulated.

If you like complex maths problems then you will enjoy this series."

+6points

6out of 6found this review helpful.

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Review 5 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

4
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

Texan99

Location:Rockport, Texas

He'll make a puzzle geek out of you

Date:March 29, 2013

"Professor Zeitz is the super-geek. You can easily see how he would take a group of young math whizzes and hone their skills until they became ace competitors in problem-solving tournaments. It's not easy to communicate something as weird as a useful strategy for attacking a difficult math brain-teaser, but Zeitz often manages to do it. On the one hand, I got the impression that his mind simply goes places mine won't go, but on the other hand, he did manage to get across concepts that even I can use.

I didn't give the course full 5-star ratings only because the pace was a bit uneven. In some sections, I was glued to my chair and trying (unsuccessfully) to think of someone I could call to gush about it over. (I'm listening to this great math lecture . . . . No, really, you'd love it . . . .) In other sections, I bogged down a bit. Maybe that's just an indication of what problems grab me and what problems don't. Or maybe he was sometimes talking over my head. Not that he assumes you know a lot of higher math, but he does talk at rather a challenging level, at least from the perspective of this amateur.

While remaining perfectly dispassionate and avoiding any cheap dramatics, Zeitz nevertheless communicates a deep love of and enthusiasm for puzzles and innovative problem-solving."

+30points

30out of 30found this review helpful.

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Review 6 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

tsuseno

Location:Perth, Western Australia

Fantastic topics and presentation

Date:April 10, 2010

"Around two lectures into this course, I couldn't help but saying to myself "WOW". This course is fantastic for several reasons:

1. It uses plenty of pictures, animations and graphs. This really helped the understandings of the problems and their solutions. This is my fifth or sixth TTC course, and I really love the presentation of this course (through the use of the animations, pictures etc.) compared to the DVD versions of the other courses I have seen (which relied too much on the lecturers' verbal commentaries).

2. Every lecture always has at least one problem to be solved - i.e., practical.

3. Prof Zeits also almost always explains WHY the problems are solved in such ways, rather than just the HOWs.

4. Some of the mathematical problems are very interesting and fun.

Overall though, most parts of this course are quite (mathematically) hard-core and require mastery of at least most of high school geometry, algebra, trigonometry and calculus to fully appreciate the courses' nuances. I have loved maths from a very young age, and there were around 3 - 5% of the problems/examples i did not fully get.

One recommendation I would like to make to Prof Zeits and TTC is that I noticed small / a few typos in the notes as well as in the written texts on the DVD, which occurred (I noticed) around where the problem's climax is at! (which could get annoying). But these are very minor in frequency. For instance, on page 27 of the course guidebook, point I.B.3 should end with "8Tn + 1" instead of "8Tn".

Personally, I loved the following problems (& the strategies and tactics to solve them) - not in any order:

a. The pill problem (in lecture 1).

b. "Determine, with proof, the largest number that is the product of positive integers whose sum is 1976" - using 2s and 3s - amazing! (and the importance of e) (in lecture 16).

c. The pigeonhole (and intermediate pigeonhole) tactics (in lecture 14). I think it has great applications - for instance, problem 2 on page 60 of guidebook.

d. Handshake problem (in lecture 10) - contemplate extreme values.

e. Wythoff's Nim or "puppies and kittens" problem (in lecture 9) - solved by plotting positions and contemplating symmetries.

f. And lastly, the problem in lecture 20: "What is the probability that a randomly chosen number in Pascal's triangle is even?" I love the process of answering this and the final patterns and answer!

a. The pill problem (in lecture 1).

b. "Determine, with proof, the largest number that is the product of positive integers whose sum is 1976" - using 2s and 3s - amazing! (and the importance of e) (in lecture 16).

c. The pigeonhole (and intermediate pigeonhole) tactics (in lecture 14). I think it has great applications - for instance, problem 2 on page 60 of guidebook.

d. Handshake problem (in lecture 10) - contemplate extreme values.

e. Wythoff's Nim or "puppies and kittens" problem (in lecture 9) - solved by plotting positions and contemplating symmetries.

f. And lastly, the problem in lecture 20: "What is the probability that a randomly chosen number in Pascal's triangle is even?" I love the process of answering this and the final patterns and answer!

Overall, this is a superb superb course and I highly recommend it, but only for the hard-core math enthusiasts."

+41points

41out of 41found this review helpful.

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Review 7 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

2
out of
5

Course Content:

3
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

2
out of
5

Course Value:

2
out of
5

Hipparcos

Location:Athens, Greece

Too speciaized to be a general interest course

Date:December 25, 2011

"Started out promisingly but quickly lost my interest with too many unrealistic examples after the first few lessons. It would be helpful to relate these examples to real-world situations or begin with such examples. Too many asides on his own nerdiness and contributions to mathematical contests. We got the point early on. More graphics while presenting a problem would make grasping ideas better than a several minute monologues leading up to the problem at hand. I managed the entire 24 lessons by use of the fast forward button when the monologues became too much."

-4points

23out of 50found this review helpful.

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Review 8 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Kersi

Location:San Diego, CA

A jewel. One of TTC's best courses.

Date:September 23, 2010

"I checked this course out at my local library before coughing up the jack so as to spend my limited dollars wisely. This is one of the BEST math courses that TTC has offered. The teacher, Paul Zeitz, does an excellent job in introducing one to problem solving skills. Note that I say skills *not* a how-to. Yes, you guessed correctly - one CAN learn problem solving skills if one is willing to put in the sweat and tears. I recall in college one of the common myths making the rounds with regards to maths was "you either have it or you don't." And most of us fell into the "don't" category, myself included, who managed to get through Calc II and Matrix Algebra via late nights and sheer work.

Here Dr. Zeitz, shows that one can in fact learn the skills of effective problem solving. Granted an "average" person may not get to be super but she will be able to improve her analytical skills beyond all expectations.

I had to view the lessons two and three times to really get the ideas and am still lost in some areas. One caveat. Zeitz's book by the same name was a bit of a disappointment to me because it did not have answers to exercises. I checked out the book at a local University book store. One more thing. Zeitz describes the problem solving categories in the first five lectures and then goes to specific problems beginning with the sixth lecture. On the second viewing I first got to ONE problem solving category and then viewed the specific lecture that dealt with the specific category in detail. That helped me imbibe the stuff faster.

When this goes on sale and if the price is reasonable I will grab this course hook, line, and sinker. An EXCELLENT investment."

+43points

43out of 43found this review helpful.

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Review 9 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

NewJerseyCommuter

Location:The New Jersey Coast

Teach? Or awaken?

Date:March 7, 2010

"To teach the art of solving mathematical problems may seem impossible. Perhaps it is. Perhaps all you can do is awaken a capacity that has lain unused and unsuspected. But if even that much is possible, this course has a good chance of doing it.

Paul Zeitz has spent years training "mathletes"--students who compete in elite tests of problem-solving. I suspect they could clean my clock, and yet what he teaches echoes and extends what I have learned over the years from Martin Gardiner's columns and books, a four-year engineering degree, and continued if occasional interest in matters mathematical.

The point, you see, is not so much to teach mathematics as to teach you to think just a little bit like a mathematician. When you come face to face with a problem, what do you look for? What guides your approach to it? What approaches do you have? To teach even this much is a huge task, but by a good set of examples and steady review of "what we tried and why it worked" Zeitz goes quite far down the road, dividing the subject into tools, tactics, strategy, and culture.

Culture matters because culture is the climate in which problem-solving acumen withers or flourishes. Zeitz provides glimpses of the culture of mathematics and the people, great and lesser, who aspire to do well at it. Those glimpses also hold the hope of awakening something in the student.

There is very little algebra; most of the algebra presented earns a place either by its importance as a tool or the penetrating insight it illustrates. The emphasis is on a variety of tools and tactics, not surpassing strength in one or two. And only at the end does Professor Zeitz offer the domain of complex numbers as a topic for study, one too broad to take up in the course, though deeply connected with several of the tactical approaches we examine.

The final lectures include vignettes of several great mathematicians and a discussion of "how versus why." These are worth the price of the whole course, but only if you have reached a certain level of understanding. The rest of the course, its challenges and insights, are the price to pay to reach that point.

Professor Zeitz is somewhat soft-spoken. On the one hand, this means that he does not overshadow or distract from his material. On the other, it meant that I sometimes had to marshal my full attention at the opening of each lecture.

Most of the visuals are very good to excellent. The exception are the "subtitle" notes that appear on a band across the bottom of the screen. On a small screen they are harder than necessary to read. I would encourage The Teaching Company to make such titles about two fifths again as large as these. Fortunately, only a few are of central importance to the course. The most important visuals, those that present and illustrate problems and how they can be solved, are well designed and very clear and legible.

It appears that the Teaching Company has gone to a new backdrop or "stage" for their presentations. It is much deeper and somewhat more opulant than the older ones, and I found it a little distracting. It may be that the speaker simply does not stand out as well against its colors. They also are using a new lectern, one that surrounds the speaker on three sides. This shields the speaker from view, making it harder for the eye to recognize a human form and, in my judgement, harder for the speaker to hold the viewer's attention. I suggest to The Teaching Company that they reconsider these choices."

+17points

17out of 17found this review helpful.

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Review 10 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

ccc3

Location:Little Rock, Arkansas

Very Useful - Great Professor

Date:December 14, 2012

"This one is definitely worth the purchase. This professor is outstanding. His love of the subject is contageous. His ability to think clearly and focus on what is important is impressive. All the while he speaks in a very captivating, interesting and pleasantly mild humorous way and makes us feel like fellow human beings. There were times, as always with math, that I wasn't fully following along, but the beginning and ending alone are well worth the money and I have taken a few critical concepts away that I am grateful for. I am ready for the next one by Paul Zeitz and hope it is Complex Analysis. Not only have I been dying for a good course on that topic even before this, but then he leaves us at the end with several reasons why Complex Analysis is so important. I am sure he would do an excellent job presenting that topic.

Thanks Paul! Looking for Complex Analysis now!

Oh, I can't forget to mention that the setting for this one was also wonderful and so superior to the old brick wall / fake ivy background that some of the courses have. This setting is sleek and professional and not distracting. I do have one suggestion for improvement. Can the instructor have access to some kind of physical board for writing / typing / displaying? Maybe I'm just old, but I think it would be better than the somewhat cold separate graphics. Also, please include some of the graphics in the books - even just still photos give some reminder of what happened in the course. Thanks."

Thanks Paul! Looking for Complex Analysis now!

Oh, I can't forget to mention that the setting for this one was also wonderful and so superior to the old brick wall / fake ivy background that some of the courses have. This setting is sleek and professional and not distracting. I do have one suggestion for improvement. Can the instructor have access to some kind of physical board for writing / typing / displaying? Maybe I'm just old, but I think it would be better than the somewhat cold separate graphics. Also, please include some of the graphics in the books - even just still photos give some reminder of what happened in the course. Thanks."

+33points

34out of 35found this review helpful.

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Comments (1)

Comments (1)

luv2learnguy

Posted October 17, 2014

Completely agree on the Complex Analysis comment!!! VERY MUCH looking forward to a course on that subject!!! (are you reading this, Great Courses staff???)

0points

0out of 0found this comment helpful.

Review 11 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

EquineNut

Location:Omaha, NE

Alternately loved and hated this course

Date:August 25, 2012

"I liked the way the hard parts of the course were proceeded and/or followed by motivating lectures. I was enthusiastic at the start of the course but gradually became depressingly aware of how stupid I am and how little I can think. About the time I felt like giving up, there would be another motivating lecture. Overall the course was very helpful, I have doubled the amount of time I will think about a problem before giving up, and I have tried his suggestion of having some problems on mental back-burners, and after a couple weeks I realized the solution to one of the problems which was a really thrilling experience. This course taught me to feel more relaxed about taking time (hours, days, weeks) to think, whereas before I felt a lot of pressure to understand things fast (which probably just slowed me down)."

+32points

35out of 38found this review helpful.

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Review 12 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

1
out of
5

Course Content:

3
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

3
out of
5

Course Value:

1
out of
5

flyingears

Location:Chesapeake, VA

The Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Date:December 17, 2012

"Dr. Zeitz has too much time in his hands... If the student wants to spend lots of time, buy the program otherwise spend time in other math courses."

-104points

3out of 110found this review helpful.

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Review 13 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

zehnpfennig

Location:Michigan

Great teacher and motivator

Date:February 27, 2012

"Dr. Zeitz reinvigorated my desire to solve mathematical problems. I watched the course and solved many of the additional problems in the supplement. You have to be willing to "Get your hands dirty" with solving problems if you want to benefit from this course.

It was a profound pleasure for me to watch him and his enthusiasm for mathematics. I also think that his remarks about the different cultures in which students learn mathematics are very thought provoking."

+8points

8out of 8found this review helpful.

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Review 14 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

ssn651

Location:San Francisco, CA

This is not your fathers math

Date:January 30, 2011

"Professor Zeitz addresses concepts in math that are typically not taught in school. You will be amazed by some of the concepts and how powerful they are in solving riddles. After a slow start in lecture 1 - it quickly picks up speed where the math is challenging - yet fun."

+6points

9out of 12found this review helpful.

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Review 15 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

tricycle222

Location:Oakland, CA

The Course for All Problem Solvers

Date:June 5, 2010

"This course will introduce you to problem solving with real problems discussed and explained by one of the premier problem solvers and expositors of our time. This is certainly the best course that I have bought from the Teaching Company and I have purchased almost every mathematics course in the catalog.

Whether you are already a talented problem solver or just beginning, there is a wealth of information to be gained by joining Paul Zeitz in his exploration of this field of interest. No matter how much actual talent you have, you will become much more confident of your ability in the craft of problem solving. You will come away from the course with a much better understanding of why some individuals love mathematics and spend their entire lives exploring its problems.

His book with same title "The Art and Craft of Problem Solving" is a wonderful companion piece, but being able to actually see and hear him discuss the problems and techniques is priceless. Such charisma is what makes him such an outstanding teacher as well as problem solver."

+18points

18out of 18found this review helpful.

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Review 16 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

psychicfriend

Location:Danville, CA

Best Course Evah, and I have bought quite a few...

Date:March 20, 2010

"I have worked for many years in various areas that require both mathematical and non-mathematical problem solving, although I (newly regret that I) never tried Math Olympiads as a kid. More than just technical insight, this course has given me a lot of psychological insights and tools that i am putting to use in my professional and personal life.

For example, I have spent a lot of time studying advanced math from books on my own, struggling mightily with abstract problems - it was very helpful for me to realize, through this DVD, that math is very much an oral tradition and that in doing math problems I should expect to spend a lot of time feeling "lost" because that's a normal condition for mathematicians. Now I realize that on some topics I'm going to wind up needing to ask questions and discussing them with others, and that the fact that I spend a long time staring at a problem without "getting it" is just par for the course.

Aside from all that, the problems and overview of solution strategies, tactics, and tricks is fun and well presented.

Also, I've got a gifted 4th-grader who is starting to do some MO problems through his school, and I am showing some of these lectures to him as well."

For example, I have spent a lot of time studying advanced math from books on my own, struggling mightily with abstract problems - it was very helpful for me to realize, through this DVD, that math is very much an oral tradition and that in doing math problems I should expect to spend a lot of time feeling "lost" because that's a normal condition for mathematicians. Now I realize that on some topics I'm going to wind up needing to ask questions and discussing them with others, and that the fact that I spend a long time staring at a problem without "getting it" is just par for the course.

Aside from all that, the problems and overview of solution strategies, tactics, and tricks is fun and well presented.

Also, I've got a gifted 4th-grader who is starting to do some MO problems through his school, and I am showing some of these lectures to him as well."

+10points

11out of 12found this review helpful.

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Review 17 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

FusionQuest

Location:Raleigh, NC

Truly Exceptional!

Date:February 16, 2010

"Get your graph paper, some colored pens, some plain paper and bring along your imagination for an intellectual adventure of the first order!

If you just want a lecture series where you listen and watch and/or generally prefer a very rudimentary treatment of the subject matter, this is probably not the course for you. On the other hand, if you enjoy "getting your hands dirty" with some experimentation, and are ready to actively engage in some creative thinking while learning some of the art and craft of mathematical problem solving, then this course is a "must have".

Professor Zeitz presents overall strategies (many of which are very helpful for non-mathematical problem solving as well) and specific tactics in solving a wide variety of very interesting problems touching on several areas of mathematics. In addition to being a master at mathematical problem solving, he's an excellent teacher as well--the content, delivery and development of the subject is superb. The problems selected are very engaging and nicely illustrate, and illuminate, the strategies and tactics presented in each lesson.

In addition, there's interesting material on the culture of mathematical problem solving, some motivational information, and a great list of additional resources to continue your mathematical journey. I intend to do just that. Thank you, professor Zeitz and The Teaching Company for job very well done!"

+10points

10out of 10found this review helpful.

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Review 18 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

4
out of
5

Course Content:

4
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

4
out of
5

JCameron

Location:Deployed to Afghanistan

Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Date:February 15, 2010

"I have purchased most of the science and math courses offered by the Teaching Company. While the others courses served to reinforce what I learned in high school and college, this course presented mathematical material from a completely new perspective. Professor Zeitz has some incredible mathematical talents, however I found myself frustrated when unable to solve his problems using the techniques he presented. The skills he presents are to be acquired with time and practice, and more of an art than the black-and-white material usually associated with a math course. If I had one complaint regarding this course, it would be Professor Zeitz’ lethargic tone. Perhaps I have been spoiled by the boisterous presentations from Arthur Benjamin and Edward Berger (see Teaching Company’s Joy of Math and Intro to Number Theory). Professor Zeitz’ voice seems more suited to a hypnotherapy session, such that if he counted down from three and snapped his fingers I’d instantly fall into a somnambulistic state.

I would recommend this course to anyone who considers themselves a math nerd. Anyone seeking new and advanced tactics to tackle seemingly complex problems would find this course useful."

I would recommend this course to anyone who considers themselves a math nerd. Anyone seeking new and advanced tactics to tackle seemingly complex problems would find this course useful."

+13points

16out of 19found this review helpful.

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Review 19 for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Overall Rating:

5
out of
5

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

5
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5

Sophronia

Location:Newton, MA

I'm Loving It

Date:February 9, 2010

"Maybe it is premature to review this when I am only five lectures into it, but I plan to stick with the course, even though it is confusing at times. Since it is full of discrete examples of what Professor Zeitz calls "tricks" or "tools", I guess I have to realize that I never mastered those to which I was long ago introduced, but they aren't hard to learn, and ultimately they are not the essence of what it takes to appreciate the process.

My education has been sketchy, and I would say that I dipped into the math and science parts of it with a sense of ever-greater confusion, after having been considered a good student at one time. There is something rather forgiving in the nature of this course. Not only can you push the pause button, you can push the stop button and go back to some of the earlier material.

Although things move fast, I liked how the professor set up the course, with an invitation to be perplexed and get comfortable with that state of mind as you work towards understanding. There's no Darwinian strategy for eliminating the unfit, which largely prevailed in classes of my youth, whether explicitly or implicitly. Women were first on the chopping block then, which is silly when you see the halls of MIT today teeming with females (many from China and India where they did not seem to get the memo that girls can't hack it).

My best experience was in middle school, with an old Navy man, who loved numbers for their own sake and introduced us to all sorts of number systems and really tried to get us to change our perspectives. It was also the year I was studying art, and learning to draw in perspective. My brain was waking up from those boring and perfect years in elementary school arithmetic drills. The next year, unfortunately, I drew an algebra teacher who insisted on lots of quizzes and perfect answers (which is indeed part of math).

The loose quest I remained on after that disaster (I had to learn to be content with "C"'s in math afterwards) was not all to the bad, because it took me through places I would return to, only not on such a clunky tour bus.

Eloquently, Zeitz has said that an explorer is someone who is lost. He also reminds us that excessive rigor in the real world is, while definitely for some of us, much less fun than getting out in that place where you do not know the language, and trying to communicate with the natives. He repeatedly uses the phrase "playground" to describe the places we can visit in what I would call "Mathemagic Land" (it's a good Donald Duck movie). So many cultures have developed and used math to grasp the complexity of the world. We can feel a sympathy with distant Mayans or Babylonians, and can even begin to read their codes.

Perhaps my old Navy man teacher who had sailed around the world, who cried when we learned in that class that JFK had been shot - perhaps he passed on a kind of spark which said the light would stay on for me. Perhaps it was in an otherwise scary Catholic school classroom when I took refuge, waiting to be called on to stand recite my times table problem, that I could find patterns in the table and make it my salvation. In those days, I thought a lot about the Trinity - and nine, magical nine. We acquire mathematics in different ways, but pattern is our friend. That is for sure. This course is a friendly course. I even solved a few problems in the down time when I pushed pause. Quelle surprise!

There's an athlete in everyone. There's also a mathematician in everyone.

A professor I once knew socially, a Greek by birth, wrote that at some time in the Renaissance or even before, "techne" and the humanistic side had parted company. He wanted them to become reconciled, so that everyone knew one another again, not shunning each other's world view. I am not a nerd, but I know and love several nerds. Now I am learning a bit about the language they speak, and it's not such a big scary deal."

+7points

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Ratings-Only Reviews for Art and Craft of Mathematical Problem Solving

Based on 1 ratings-only review

AVERAGE CUSTOMER RATINGOverall Rating:

5
out of
5

Would recommend? Yes 1 out of 1

Course Content:

5
out of
5

Professor Presentation:

4
out of
5

Course Value:

5
out of
5