The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: From Cards to Sudoku

Course No. 1401
Professor Arthur T. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Harvey Mudd College
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4.6 out of 5
55 Reviews
89% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1401
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn simple, card-counting techniques to improve your chances at winning Blackjack.
  • numbers Explore the mathematical backbone of Texas Hold'em to make proper wagering decisions.
  • numbers Discover a simple, eight-step tool using math that will help you master a Rubik's Cube.
  • numbers Draw connections between math strategies and winning game strategies for chess.

Course Overview

For thousands of years, games and puzzles have been an enjoyable and rewarding aspect of human civilization. They tease our brains. They challenge our memories. They strengthen our competitive skills. And whether it’s chess, poker, or Sudoku, most games have this in common: Everything you need to win is rooted in mathematics.

Using nothing more than a simple grasp of math, you can discover optimal ways to win games and solve puzzles with the speed and accuracy of professional players—many of whom attribute their professional gaming success to mathematical strategies. By using math as a unique lens through which to explore some of the world’s most popular games, you’ll

  • improve the ways you win games and solve puzzles;
  • better understand exciting concepts in everything from algebra to probability to game theory;
  • make better decisions and take calculated risks in personal investing and other real-world situations;
  • keep your mind active and sharp at any age; and, perhaps best of all,
  • discover whole new levels of enjoyment with games you only thought you knew how to play.

Join award-winning Professor Arthur T. Benjamin—one of The Great Courses’ most popular instructors and a veritable mathemagician at making math enjoyable for everyone—for an in-depth look at new, better, more math-oriented ways to play and win games in The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: From Cards to Sudoku. In just twelve 45-minute lessons, you’ll learn a rewarding set of skills you can apply to countless games and puzzles, whether you’re playing them in your living room or in a crowded casino. You’ll also learn that behind even the simplest games lies proof of just how beautiful and far-reaching mathematics is in your everyday life.

A Math-Centric Way to Play Games

With the same characteristic excitement that has won him the acclaim of countless of our lifelong learners, Professor Benjamin covers a range of games, puzzles, and brainteasers that we’ve all played, tried to play, or wanted to play at some point.

  • Zero-sum games: Many of the most popular games are what mathematicians and strategists call zero-sum games, or contests against an intelligent adversary whose aims oppose yours. Alongside Professor Benjamin, you’ll uncover math-centric, proven ways to succeed at backgammon, poker, and even a simple game of rock-paper-scissors.
  • Games of chance: Many of us are intimidated by casino games. And if we’re not, we’re always looking for ways to stay ahead of our opponents. In addition to revealing the surprising math behind roulette, craps, video poker, blackjack, and more, Professor Benjamin offers invaluable tips on improving the way you bluff, wager, and count cards.
  • Classic puzzles and brainteasers: Whether it’s Sudoku, peg solitaire, or even a Rubik’s Cube, puzzles can be as frustrating as they are entertaining. What math tools can help you fill a Sudoku grid without ever guessing? How can you solve a Rubik’s Cube as if it were second nature? Find out all this and more in several lectures devoted to mastering puzzling challenges.

The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles takes an elementary mathematical approach to understanding how each game and puzzle is played and won. While the mathematics in this course is detailed, Professor Benjamin always makes sure to break down the complexity into simple language that anyone eager to learn can grasp.

Discover the Tips and Tricks of Champions

These lessons are also packed with dozens of specific tips, tricks, strategies, and methodologies for getting the best of your opponents, improving your technique, increasing your chances of winning, and much more. You’ll get an invaluable toolkit to take with you every time you’re at a poker table, in front of a chess board, or reading the morning newspaper.

  • When should you hit or stand in blackjack? If the dealer’s up-card is 7 or higher, then hit until your total is 17 or higher. If the up-card is 4, 5, or 6, then take no chances—not even when your total is 12.
  • In the poker game of Texas Hold’em, being dealt an ace-king is a strong hand, but it still loses to randomly dealt hands about one-third of the time. It even loses to a pair of deuces 53% of the time.
  • Frustrated with a Sudoku grid? Look for hidden singles (numbers that can only find one place to go in a row, column, or box). When you find a number with only two possible squares in a box, lightly pencil that number in both places and use it to try to solve other trouble spots.

Professor Benjamin’s lessons are filled with strategies like these; some for an entire game, others for a particular scenario, many of them straight from champion players. In putting this course together, he consulted with experts (including some world champions) at backgammon, poker, chess, Rubik’s Cube, and Sudoku, along with professionals in the casino gaming industry.

Improve Your Odds of Becoming a Winner

With this course, you’ll find yourself in the hands of a master instructor. Professor Benjamin is a past winner of the American Backgammon Tour and a firm believer that learning math should be just as fun and enjoyable as playing games. You’ll quickly see why Professor Benjamin has won three awards from the Mathematical Association of America, and why Reader’s Digest named him “America’s Best Math Whiz.”

And with the aid of helpful exercises and problems, detailed explanations of mathematical reasoning, visual breakdowns and animations of specific techniques, and more, you’ll find yourself eager to play along with Professor Benjamin and to return to these lectures any time you get the urge to play a game.

Insightful and entertaining, The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles is a fun-filled opportunity to engage with math, strengthen your mental skills, and increase the chances that the next time someone asks you if you’re up for a game, you’ll come out a winner.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 45 minutes each
  • 1
    Let the Games Begin!
    Explore some general strategies for successfully solving simple games and puzzles. As you hone your skills at games and puzzles, including 20 Questions, Mastermind, Ghost, The Tower of Hanoi, variations of Tic Tac Toe, and Cram (a cross between checkers and dominoes), you’ll start seeing how mathematical ideas and concepts—including the strategy of working backward and the exploitation of symmetry—are essential to increasing your chances of winning. x
  • 2
    Games of Chance and Winning Wagers
    Turn now to games that rely heavily on chance and betting, such as roulette and craps, and learn how to evaluate the fairness (or unfairness) of games using the ever-important concept of expected value. Once you know if a game is to your advantage or not, you can use the Kelly criterion or the Gambler’s Ruin formula to help you decide your best wagering strategies. x
  • 3
    Optimal Blackjack and Simple Card Counting
    Depending on how you play it, blackjack can be the best or the worst game in a casino. Here, Professor Benjamin shows you how to get the best of blackjack before it gets the best of you. By taking you through scenarios of increasing difficulty to strengthen your skills, and by demonstrating the secrets of simple card counting, he reveals optimal strategies for knowing when to stand, when to hit, when to double, and when to split. x
  • 4
    Mixed Strategies and the Art of Bluffing
    What happens when you’re playing a game with an intelligent adversary whose goals are opposed to yours? You have a zero-sum game such as penny matching, rock-paper-scissors, and simplified poker. Discover how to use math to bluff, play unpredictably, and win these kinds of games through powerful strategies including the equilibrium strategy (which guarantees the highest expected payoff without allowing your adversary to exploit your approach). x
  • 5
    Practical Poker Probabilities
    Investigate the mathematical backbone of Texas Hold’em, one of the most popular traditional poker games. What is the probability your hand will improve before and after more cards are revealed? How do you calculate your “pot odds” to help you determine your proper wagering decisions? As you enhance your mathematical poker-playing skills, you’ll find the answers to these and other questions about this thrilling game. You will also learn simple and effective strategies for playing video poker. x
  • 6
    Expert Backgammon
    Mathematically trained players also have a decisive edge in backgammon, which trains you to make decisions in highly uncertain conditions. Professor Benjamin explains the rules of the game, the basic strategies for winning, the best ways to play your opening rolls, and how math constantly enters the picture—from figuring out the safest way to move your checkers to the all-important doubling cube. x
  • 7
    Games You Can’t Lose and Sneaky Puzzles
    The world of games is filled with scams. The trick: knowing the strategies behind how these hustles work so you can avoid being exploited (and learn some engaging insights into math at the same time). Explore the fundamentals of nontransitive properties through penny ante, Bingo, and games involving dice and cards. Then, get a lively introduction to some simple puzzles involving cups, coins, and toothpicks—and their surprisingly sneaky answers. x
  • 8
    Solving “Impossible” Puzzles
    Try your hand at some classic puzzles that have been driving people crazy for centuries involving sliding blocks, jumping pegs, and blinking lights—each of which deals heavily with odd or even numbers. Once you’ve learned some handy mathematical concepts and tools for solving these puzzles—including mod 2 arithmetic, vector equations, and mnemonic devices—these fun and exciting games won’t seem so “impossible” anymore. x
  • 9
    Mastering Rubik’s Cube
    It’s one of the most famous puzzles ever invented. But Professor Benjamin has an easy-to-learn, eight-step method for solving this mind-bending puzzle quickly and accurately—every time. After examining the mathematics behind the cube and pondering how many different cube positions are possible, you’ll follow him step-by-step through an algorithm (taught to Professor Benjamin by a world-champion cube solver) that, with practice, will have you solving any Rubik’s Cube in less than three minutes. x
  • 10
    Solving Sudoku
    What’s the key to solving Sudoku problems when you’re at your wits’ end? Training your mind to look for patterns and to use careful logic, just like mathematicians. This lecture is packed with helpful techniques and strategies for overcoming even the most difficult Sudoku grids. Among those you’ll learn about: crosshatching, miniboxes, naked pairs and triples, and the unique rectangle rule. These tricks can even be used to solve variations on traditional Sudoku puzzles. x
  • 11
    Mathematics and Chess
    Chess is more like doing real mathematics than almost any other game out there. You’ll get a quick overview of how the game is played; learn how to draw connections between math and chess; explore some classic chess puzzles and problems; tap into the power of strategies and tactics for the opening, middle, and end game; and get some insider tips that are sure to improve your game the next time you sit down in front of a chess set. x
  • 12
    Winning Ways—It’s Your Move!
    Finish this engaging series with a look back at the three categories that most games fall into (games where the last player to move wins, games where the goal is to be the first to create a structure, and games where the player who accumulates the most stuff wins). Cram, NIM, Chomp, Connect Four—play them all. Also, take a look at how computers play games—and how they’ve helped us become better players. x

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  • 12 lectures on 3 DVDs
  • 136-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 136-page course synopsis
  • Charts & diagrams
  • Suggested readings
  • Problems & solutions

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Your professor

Arthur T. Benjamin

About Your Professor

Arthur T. Benjamin, Ph.D.
Harvey Mudd College
Dr. Arthur T. Benjamin is Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College. He earned a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from Johns Hopkins University in 1989. Professor Benjamin's teaching has been honored repeatedly by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). In 2000, he received the MAA Deborah and Franklin Tepper Haimo National Award for Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics. The MAA also named...
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The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: From Cards to Sudoku is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 55.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent purchase This course was an excellent leisure time course. Dr. Benjamin did an excellent job of teaching how to be successful at Soduko and at Rubik's Cube. It was both interesting and challenging.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a great value The course has tons information presented in an understandable and enjoyable fashion. The prof is really into it.
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from When Math can be a lot of fun Wow, another outstanding by Professor Benjamin, I liked in particular his lectures on Black Jack, Video Poker and Sudoku. It is amazing what he achieved in only 12 lectures.
Date published: 2016-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course teaches us a lot about the mathematics behind board games, casino games, card games, etc. Game theory is also used in real-world applications such as business, economics, statistics, and others, so this course is not just used for playing games but applicable in th real world. Professor Benjamin is a very engaging, dynamic professor who makes the course as fun as the games themselves.
Date published: 2016-03-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Title of Course is incorrect First, I want to make it clear that I enjoyed this course (as it is) a lot, and I learned quite a bit. However (and this is the reason for my giving the course only 3 stars). I think it needs to be made clear that the course is badly --and misleadingly-- misnamed. In short there is virtually *no* "Mathematics" in the course. Probably the best example is the lecture on the Rubik's Cube. The possibilities of using the cube for teaching and exploring real Mathematics is enormous; for example the cube is often used as an entry point for discussion of various fields in mathematics (such as group theory or combinatorics). But the only point at which "mathematics --or more properly "arithmetic"-- comes into the lecture is while calculating the number of possible "positions" of the cube. (This is typical of all the lectures, for example while calculating the number of possible Sudoku boards. Or in the lecture on Chess, where (despite the instructor's repeated insistence on the "mathematical nature" of the game) the only time numbers --let alone mathematics-- come up is in the rating of the value of the various pieces; e.g. Pawn=1, Knight=3, etc.) Now, I understand that a discussion on the real mathematics of these games is well beyond the scope of this course. (A discussion of the mathematics of Rubik's Cube would easily take up a full course by itself. Perhaps Teaching Company would consider a course along these lines?) And as I say, I enjoyed the course a lot, in particular the hints and techniques for solving some of the puzzles. (Although if I had a criticism here it would be that often there is no attempt is made to understand _why_ the solutions work. To come back to Rubik's Cube, the student is simply shown a number of rote moves and asked to memorize them. There is no attempt to understand why this works, or how one might go about generalizing these moves or creating one's own moves.) Again, to repeat, my real criticism here is that the course is (badly, IMO) misnamed and this seems important to point out for other folks who might consider buying this course. It's a nice course, but if you are actually looking for a serious (or even an elementary) discussion of the actual mathematics underlying these games, this is not the course for you. Perhaps a more useful/accurate name might be something like: "Popular Games and Puzzles and How to Solve Them"
Date published: 2016-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Games Professor Benjamin's infectious enthusiasm for his subject will make this course series enjoyable even for those who are not heavily into card and board games and puzzles, and you will learn some surprising facts and figures along the way.
Date published: 2016-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Maths Our universe is a matemathical equation and the knowledge of as much as our brain computer can process have the key to solve the misteries we encounter. Apparebtly it is beyond our grasp in more than a small portion but the more we get into the more fascinated our short trip by this dimension.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is amazing I really enjoyed this course. Dr. Benjamin is presenting the material in a very fun way and i was kept going and wanted to see more. If you want to know the math behind the games and know how to be a better player, then this is the course.
Date published: 2015-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Games, Puzzles & Strategies... I have all of Professor Benjamin's videos and this one just adds to the list. Card counting, expected value, and game theory are topics that I have covered with my high school students. I borrowed heavily from these lectures to supplement my own. Further, I particularly enjoyed the lecture on solving the Rubik's cube. I have taught my own children how to do so and have gone on to solve the 4X4 and 5X5. If you want to get a better understanding of how games & puzzles work, get this set. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-11-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended only for those experienced with games I was actually disappointed in the course. I have never been a big player of cards, etc., only individual games like Sudoku. I was hoping for an introduction to games from a beginner's perspective. Professor Benjamin is obviously a genius at mathematics in general as well as game playing. However, I found his pace was too fast. I would only recommend this course for someone with a general familiarity with the games he covers, who is looking for tips to improve their technique. If he could reduce the number of games covered and cover each one in greater detail, starting from square one, it would have been more helpful, at least for me.
Date published: 2015-06-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If he offers to play poker with you......don't! Another well-presented subject from the enthusiastic professor! He obviously loves teaching this course. The course does not require a particularly solid background in math, but, if you have one, it does enhance the content. Casino players would do well to review the lessons on roulette, poker, 21 and betting strategies. Guess how casinos pay for opulent surroundings... Several of the lessons go into detail on game strategy for backgammon, Sudoku, NIM, Connect Four, etc. I was particularly interested in the discussion on Sudoku since I wrote a program that solves all but the most difficult Sudoku puzzles. I noted that it is permissible to guess a square when the puzzle hangs up and all else fails. ( Now I feel better.) He gives some good generic advice on complex games such as chess; although I am a lousy player, it was useful. It was interesting to note that the best backgammon and chess players in the world are now computers. Maybe it is time to retire my collegiate slide rule.
Date published: 2015-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even better the second and third time through. Enthusiasm with which the course is taught is catching and adds much to each lecture. The history that goes with each game's explanation, is very important when studying a game beyond the course.
Date published: 2015-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles I am not fully done with the course. Nonetheless, professor is using mathematically analysis to explain each game. But, some of the formulas are not explained clearly. Therefore, it is very difficult to follow. One has to be familiar with the mathematical formulas to understand fully. Overall, it gives a simple illustration of the probability of winning each particular game. I may not be interested in all the games. However, it gives me some ideas of the odds between roulette, craps, black-jack, pokers etc. I would recommend this course to understand the insights on how to play each game intelligently and the odds of winning.
Date published: 2015-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Mathematics of Games and Puzzles: This course was excellent, I really like the way Prof Arthur T Benjamin present the various subjects in the course. I never play Sudoku before, but after the lesson that Prof Benjamin gave, I got interested in trying it. I am now hook on Sudoku and with the help provided in the course by Prof Benjamin I doing great in solving the puzzles.. I also enjoy the other games explained in the lessons. Some of reasons that I bought this course is I have other course from "The Great Courses" which are really very good. I also enjoy courses that I have by Prof Benjamin which include, "The Secrets of Mental Math" and "The Joy of Mathematics" which is another reason that I bought this course. I also recommend both of this courses to others. Being retired sales prices especially are helpful.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and entertaining! This is the second course that I have viewed from The Great Courses, and I loved it. The content is interesting and applicable, and presented by a dynamic professor who obviously loves his job. This series of 12 lectures was entertaining and instructional, and I enjoyed each lecture while looking forward to the next one. Professor Benjamin's teaching style is excellent -- he is dynamic, excited, and smooth, without the annoying "ums and ers" that may dominate other lectures. The visuals were pleasing and useful, and this course's content will appeal to anyone with even a perfunctory interest in mathematics, games, or puzzles. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2015-01-25
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Desc. should hi-light that this is for beginners This is the first of 2 dozen courses that I've purchased that has me researching TGC's 100% satisfaction guarantee. I was hoping for something more advanced. It may be good for young children who are new to strategic games as it may help them build a foundation of logical thinking to apply to the games. BUT... there is nothing here for advanced students. Too much time is wasted covering the absolute basics of the game description and rules. There is simply no time left to cover anything more advanced.
Date published: 2015-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Now, This is Entertainment! I'm not a gambler and play games/puzzles occasionally but thoroughly enjoyed listening to Prof Benjamin's presentation. I think the creativity of this course is unsurpassed. I've not run into any similar lecture by a well known mathematician with such a broad introduction to so many popular games/puzzles strategies with insightful probabilities given for gambling under one lecture series. As with all of Dr Benjamin's presentations I would strongly recommend taking the time to complete the practice problems in the course book. It sharpens the mind and may even bring further satisfaction if completed correctly.
Date published: 2015-01-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another Recommended Course I'm glad I viewed the course, but many of the featured games I had never heard of nor have any interest in playing. The highlights for me are the casino games, Rubik's Cube, and Sudoku.
Date published: 2015-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great course Dr. Benjamin does a great job at teaching this course. I'm concurrently taking the final calculus course taught by Dr. Bruce Edwards and he also does a great job at teaching. I've recommended that course (below). Mathman
Date published: 2014-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite interesting. I can even consistently work the RUBIK'S cube in less than 5 minutes.
Date published: 2014-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Recommended to Improve Your Game Playing Professor Benjamin does an excellent of how mathematics is associated with many common games. The mathematics of the games is explained in common language terms with many examples and with very useful graphics and interactive displays. The course will well organized with the first lessons being the simpler games and then progressing to the more complicated games such as Rubik’s Cube, backgammon, Sudoku, and chess. This course has definitely improved my game playing. This course is recommended for anybody who wants to improve your game playing and game strategy skills.
Date published: 2014-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Intro to both Math and Games Let me preface this review by admitting that I'm a fan of Professor Benjamin's work. I find him clear, succinct, and always engaging, and have enjoyed pretty much every course I've sampled of his. If I had more math teachers like this when I was still in school, I might have ended up taking a lot more of the subject! I do understand, however, why some of the other reviewers have been a little disappointed in this course. Expectation is everything. If you have listened to some of Professor Benjamin's more advanced courses, and came to this one expecting more of the same, then you might feel a little let down. I will add my hopes to those who would like to see a more advanced sequel to this series in the future. But if you are interested in an introduction and overview of the subject that's consistently engaging and entertaining, and which manages to sneak the math in as painlessly as possible, then I would highly recommend this course. Not all of the lectures were equally valuable, though the variation arose from my own previous level of experience with the subject under discussion. The chess lecture barely skimmed the surface — and I would imagine that chess could easily support an entire series on it's own (though I loved the Knights' Tour tips). And I turned to this series in the first place hoping for useful advice in improving my own Sudoku habit, but found instead that I appear to be at least as advanced as the Professor in that game. However Backgammon, which I hadn't played in 30+ years, caught my fancy and has kept me absorbed for several days now, despite being just as light. The gambling lectures were fascinating, albeit of little practical use to me other than as a vindication of why I never gamble. Those were the lectures which, to me, were probably the most interesting on a purely intellectual/abstract level. They do contain the one inconsistency I caught, however: the Professor outlined the optimal betting strategy in one lecture before noting a more conservative approach that some people use instead, and in the next lecture he discusses optimal betting strategy as if the more conservative version was actually assumed. It's a minor quibble, though. Where the series most engrossed me, however, was in it's discussion of games and puzzles that used to frustrate me as a child. Just the satisfaction of knowing that I can now complete the 15 puzzle, peg solitaire, and even a Rubik's cube in just minutes is, to me, worth the price of admission!
Date published: 2014-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course for all ages! I purchased this course for our 8 year old son that is following in Dr. Benjamin's mental math footsteps. He quickly was able to master the Rubik's cube and other puzzles from the course. The course is well laid out and is easy to follow for all ages. Like all of Dr. Benjamin's courses this one is 5 stars.
Date published: 2014-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Five star course IF ONLY TEACHERS TAUGHT LIKE DR.BENJAMIN THE (MATH) WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER AND HAPPIER PLACE Our family, including our ten year old son, has watched this course (The Mathematics behind Games and Puzzles) multiple times! Each time we’ve come away with a new revelation. Even though the course delves into probability, it does so without jargon and equations! This course is like a great book that draws you in and is hard to put down once begun. The glue that binds this course perfectly is the sheer passion that Dr. Benjamin exudes in every segment. His presentation style is lucid and his pace is just right; the course moves from one insight to another efficiently and in a highly engaging way. His discussion on the games such as roulette, craps, blackjack, poker, video poker etc. are likely to leave the viewer with the right mental framework to have a realistic idea of the true odds of winning (and may leave you richer or at least less poor at the casinos!). His lessons on chess, backgammon, Sudoku, and various puzzles will help you build your skill and vastly increase the fun you have when playing these games. I cannot recommend this course highly enough (six stars?). Whether you are interested in games and puzzles or in finance/markets, you will improve your decision-making skills and better understand risk and chance.
Date published: 2014-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Rubik's cube victory Professor Benjamin has a gift for making the subjects of math, numbers, games and puzzles accessible to virtually everyone. His lessons strike an appropriate balance between entertainment and educational content. Not surprisingly then this series helped me to cross "solving a Rubik's cube" off my bucket list. I had tried a variety of books and short videos with no success . I was beginning to think it was hopeless and beyond me but quickly saw that his 8 step method was a solution I could master in a few tries. I have enjoyed all of Professor Benjamin's lessons from The Great Courses. I look forward to seeing more subjects from him in the future and getting new glimpses into what's behind the mathemagician's curtain..
Date published: 2014-05-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Basic After 6 other courses I find this course didn't live up to my expectations. It is very basic and should have been advertised as such. It was a shock to hear him say that at some point in Sudoku you will have to 'guess'. Solving by 'colors' I realize is an advanced solution method and expected it or some other advanced solutions would be presented. Sudoku is one reason I purchased this course. To solve Sudoku you should never have to guess. These are 45 minute lectures not 30 minutes as advertised. No big deal but thought it should be noted.
Date published: 2014-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun Math - Not Quantum Physics Light math fun. If you buy this to learn to gamble you are barking up the wrong tree. I found it interesting and intertaining. I was not expecting nor did I receive a PHD level math course, in fact if it had been I would have been disappointed. Anyone interesed in this course otta read the intro. I did notice that at time mark 48:11 in box 7, line 1, it had the numbers 494 when he got stuck. I wonder if 495 would have been better? I am sure that the proffessor has caught this by now.
Date published: 2014-01-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sudoku misrepresented Although the chapter on Sudoku is technically correct, its inclusion misrepresents Sudoku as a "mathematical" game, to the detriment of Dr. Benjamin and The Great Courses. Solving a Sudoku puzzle has nothing whatsoever to do with mathematical operations on the numbers in the puzzle, but is a straightforward case of pattern recognition. The digits 1-9 in a Sudoku are used merely as a convenient set of symbols to label the series of cells that make up the lines and columns of the puzzle - designers could just as readily have used the letters A - I, or nine symbols from a deck of playing cards. For his misrepresentation of the nature of Sudoku, I downrate the course.
Date published: 2013-12-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great how-to, light on some explanations Worth watching, but a little short on explanations and underlying mathematics in some of the individual lectures. For example, Professor Benjamin teaches an algorithm for solving Rubik's Cube, but doesn't even attempt to explain why it works. Still, if you want to be able to consistently solve that game or others covered in the lectures, you will gain from the course. Also, some lectures do offer insights. If you ever bet and you're not familiar with the concept of expected value, lecture 2 will be very helpful. Lecture 7, Games You Can't Lose and Sneaky Puzzles, was the most interesting to me. Recommended as a how-to course, with the “why”s of some areas explained, but not others.
Date published: 2013-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent. Hoping for a follow up. This is an excellent course to learn the basics of puzzles and games. From it, I learned how to solve the Rubik's cube. Now, you can find websites to teach you this skill, but I prefer Prof. Benjamin's method for two reasons. 1) He gives mnemonics to remember how to do each step, which are very helpful. 2) His methods are simpler than many of the methods I've seen online. Other methods might have you solving the cube in fewer moves, but Prof. Benjamin's methods are simply easier to learn. Same goes for his discussion of those always maddening peg solitaire games. The lecture on chess was extremely basic, and not very helpful if you already know how to play the game and some of the basics. But don't fast forward the whole thing. Prof. Benjamin takes a fascinating tangent to discuss the "Knight's Tour," something I knew very little about. Even though much of the material was basic, there was a lot in here I knew nothing about. Non-transitive dice? Non-transitive hands in poker? None of it I've heard of before. All fascinating. I'm hoping, like many of the other reviewers that Prof. Benjamin will produce a follow-up with more advanced material. But I'm certainly glad I've seen this.
Date published: 2013-09-08
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  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_11, tr_44
  • loc_en_US, sid_1401, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 64.21ms

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