Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Fun with math

I'm not sure how many of my readers have any interest in mathematics. As I've mentioned before, I spent several years as one of the coaches of a very successful high school math team, and was a mathlete before that. If I have one regret about my career choices (all right, it's just one of about a hundred, but never mind), it's that I didn't pursue some area of math. It would have been a lot more fun for me; maybe some day I'll tell that story here.

At any rate, I've come across a web site that offers a whole bunch of enjoyment and challenge (what's that phrase from, readers?). Project Euler features some pretty tricky problems (219 at current count), most of which require a programming solution. (Some of them are solvable with Excel, if you must.) They're very much oriented toward number theory, the queen of mathematics (Gauss thought so, at least).

It's interesting to look at the programming languages that have been used. C/C++ is the most popular, followed by Python, Java, C#, Haskell, and Ruby. I would recommend that, since this is something of a fun site, you could solve the problems using a language that you're not so familiar with (I've been using J, which is an offshoot of APL - here's an example: +/~.(3*i.334),5*i.200). You'll have to register, which may be a bit of a turn-off, but it's a good way to sharpen those math and programming skills.

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