getting your math on

Recently I started working thru the ever growing list of cool math and algorithm based puzzles on ProjectEuler.net. Moving pretty slowly so far, but having fun learning some new things which is really the point of the exercise anyway. My basic approach so far is to digest a new puzzle and see if I can solve it based on what I already know. If I can’t then I let it steep for a while trying to figure out just what is that I don’t know I don’t know. After I have a clue what I might need to know I start Google-Binging, not for solutions but for information and explanations that will help me understand the problem and the solution. After that I need to, in most cases, code up an algorithm to solve the problem.

In searching for insights, I repeatedly come to the same sites and publications that I wanted to recommend and comment on here.

Most insightful: betterexplained.com

This is not a problem –> solution format, rather the author attempts to develop my “math intuition”. I always find a deeper understanding than I actually need to solve the current problem. I love when some light bulbs go off in previously dim corners of my mind. I found this site first when looking for a better understanding of prime numbers and how they factor in to the fabric of the universe. I have not yet ordered his book, but have read much of the content and would highly recommend it.

Most practical for the problem at hand: dr. Math (mathforum.org)

This is the problem –> solution format, and it works great for breaking down a problem and building up to the solution in a way that you come away with an understanding of how you got there, without just handing you a formula that actually answers the question. In fact, in most cases the final solution is left as an exercise to the reader once the foundation is laid. I first found the good Dr. when Google-Binging for ideas how to work through finding the number of divisors of a given number.

Best book (so far): Mathematics in 10 Lessons

This book has so not been practical for solving problems today, but has been a fun read so far that it takes math and builds it up from first principles. The stated goal of the book is to explain math for non-technical people in such a way that even an poet can at least glimpse the elegance that mathematicians see. Lofty goal and I wish him well, however the book is a fun read for the technical guy or gal who just want to fill in some gaps.

Most to be avoided: StackOverflow

As much as it grieves me to say it: while StackOverflow is a routine go-to place for programming topics, when it comes to ProjectEuler most of what I have found there have been people looking for someone to hand them the solution. What is the point of that? That’s like someone telling me how the movie is going to end. So, watch out for spoilers.

Know of other items that would be good additions? Please share.

About me

.NET developer in upstate NY, USA
Current focus technologies: WPF, WCF
Intrigued by: Functional programming ala F#, Code Analysis, Math
Hobbies: this blog, go figure

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