Student Blog: All I want for Christmas is µ (mu) – Christmas Gifts for Any Mathematician!
By Peter Marron, on 19 December 2022
Are you stuck trying to find a gift for the mathematicians in your life? As much as we love t-shirts with cheesy mathematical puns, it’s great to get something more intellectually satisfying for any mathematician you know this holiday season. Whether you’re passionate about numbers or know someone who loves solving problems, here are some of my favourite gifts that will make any prospective mathematician happy!
1) Maths Books
These are great presents for anyone who wants to build their mathematical knowledge and venture into new areas of mathematics. Ever wanted to know how to use game theory to figure out who you should buy Christmas gifts for? Well, ‘The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus’ written by UCL’s very own Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Thomas Oleron-Evans solves that exact question as well as all other mathematical Christmas conundrums (including the metabolic rate of Santa Claus!).
If these popular science topics pique your interest, definitely check out the rest of Dr Hannah Fry’s novels such as ‘The Mathematics of Love’ which finds patterns in romance and ‘Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine’ which tackles the good, bad and ugly of algorithms. If novels are too long for your liking, why not gift issues of Chalkdust magazine, a bi-annual magazine tackling all things mathematical? Founded by UCL Alumni Rafael Prieto Curie and published in UCL, each issue uses different areas of maths to solve real life problems so there’ll be something interesting for anyone who’s mathematically curious. Click here to check out some of their articles and order a copy!
Mathematicians are driven by a love of solving problems so gifting any sort of puzzle will definitely be fun. From chess sets and sudoku books, to mathematical board games like Decrypto and mechanical puzzles, the possibilities are endless. I’d particularly recommend puzzle books by Raymond Smullyman as they blend recreational maths problems with different fields of logic and set theory, the perfect brain teaser for on-the-go or a relaxed afternoon.
3) Klein Bottles
Klein bottles are key shapes in topology since the neck of the bottle twists into itself such that there’s no outside or inside to the shape. This topological surface isn’t actually possible to make in three dimensions, but 3D approximations are fun gifts as bottle openers, water bottles, lamps and decorative places!
4) Maths Pun utensils
No mathematician can deny the fun of mathematical puns, especially when they are in a practical application. Think ‘proof is in the pudding’ pudding bowls where mathematical proofs are written at the bottom, or a π pie plate. This will definitely put a smile on their face.
I hope this short list gave you some inspiration for the types of presents you can get to develop someone’s passion for maths. Regardless of what you give, what we value most is time with loved ones and a well-deserved break so I have no doubt that anything mathematical will be appreciated.
Written by: Teren Lee, UCL Mathematics