Making math fun!
September 7, 2010 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Calling all math lovers! Great mathematics toys/gifts for adults?

My good friend is getting married soon, and I'd love to give him a great math related gift. Traditional gift registries are all well and good but I'd love to get them something surprising and a little bit fun.

She teaches math to high schoolers and he does calculus problems to relax. Is there any thinkgeek type equivalent for those who are nerdy in the math flavor? Interesting books might be good, but something that could be fun for display or even to engage non-math fiends would be good too. Puzzles, games, art, etc.

The only idea I have so far is a framed print of this xkcd comic Help!
posted by gilsonal to Shopping (24 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
How about a non orientable surface?
posted by phrontist at 10:16 PM on September 7, 2010

Pi plate
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 PM on September 7, 2010

I don't know if this is practical at all, but I'm a math nerd and would LOVE to have my own blackboard for my house. There's something about doing problems with chalk that makes it feel way cooler. (Whiteboards are ok, but lack the cachet).
posted by auto-correct at 10:25 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

A copy of Musical Fruitcake, an album of a Capella songs from the Klein Four Group -- a band comprised of Mathematics grad students from Northwestern. They're most famous for Finite Simple Group of Order Two, a mathematical love song.

I understand this song is sometimes played at nerdy weddings!

Also, to go with the surface above, Klein Bottle hats and scarves.
posted by ZeroDivides at 10:27 PM on September 7, 2010

Not particularly wacky, but every math person I know loves the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. (Disclosure -- I wrote a very small piece of it.)
posted by escabeche at 10:31 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

The math grad students I used to hang out with were all really good at Set. It's a card game that was invented by a geneticist, if I recollect correctly.
posted by aniola at 10:37 PM on September 7, 2010

Best answer: Irrational Numbers Wall Clock - my house mathematician got this for Christmas and it hangs on his office wall, delighting the right kind of student. The numbers around the dial are famous irrational numbers (like pi) marked at the appropriate spot (for example pi is marked partway between 3 and 4).

pop quiz math clock is a similar idea but with the normal time intervals marked with expressions that are equal to the number they mark. The math here is much simpler.

There's the ever-popular Pi baking dish, which he might already have.

Non-transitive dice are fun and neat; maybe not a wedding present type of thing, but still cool. These are a set of dice with different numbers than the normal dice have, which gives them interesting properties.

Apollonius cone - a lovely art object that demonstrates geometric properties, though expensive. (This site, Grand Illusions, has some great and hard-to-find things, worth browsing around there a bit.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:40 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you know if they play board games? And if so, which ones? If they do, I might be able to help with rec's.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:41 PM on September 7, 2010

A bit spendy, perhaps, but you might take a look through Bathsheba Sculpture for gift ideas.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:53 PM on September 7, 2010

posted by phrontist at 10:55 PM on September 7, 2010

A compass, for geometric constructions. A copy of Proofs from the Book, which I have not read but is highly regarded. (It assumes roughly an undergraduate math education.) Small neodymium magnetic spheres aren't really mathematical, but mathy people love them.
posted by scose at 11:37 PM on September 7, 2010

As a Math guy I would really really like the Klein bottles or the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. Also would go for a black board (or a white board) but only if it was full size, and don't buy something that big (and expensive) without making sure they have a suitable place to hang it. If also a physics geek Road to Reality would be good.
posted by An algorithmic dog at 12:18 AM on September 8, 2010

A Rubik's cube
posted by lizabeth at 12:56 AM on September 8, 2010

Response by poster: I'm trying to think of what board games they like. I know I've played Blockus with them. But board games are definitely an option worth considering
posted by gilsonal at 1:48 AM on September 8, 2010

How about a Gomboc?
posted by moonmilk at 6:56 AM on September 8, 2010

As a math person, a I actually prefer this xkcd comic:
posted by insectosaurus at 7:22 AM on September 8, 2010

A binary clock. This has the advantage that if you use it as your only clock, visitors don't know what time it is. (I speak from experience.)
posted by madcaptenor at 8:16 AM on September 8, 2010

ThinkGeek sells Slide Rules, too.
posted by wittgenstein at 8:30 AM on September 8, 2010

Check out the GamePuzzles by Kadon Enterprises. Penrose Tiles! Polyominoes!

This is a self-link, but topical: Cool Math: toys for mathematically-minded adults and kids. It includes my reviews of my favorite fun math stuff from Kadon.
posted by Ery at 9:06 AM on September 8, 2010

Someone should start a math store. Seriously, if I had more money I'd buy stuff there.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:56 AM on September 8, 2010

posted by chairface at 10:31 AM on September 8, 2010

Geek Clock
posted by ifjuly at 12:32 PM on September 8, 2010

Set cards. The true math-lovers/experts I've known have enjoyed (and been extremely good at) this game.
posted by sninctown at 3:26 PM on September 8, 2010

The Dot and the Line, by Norton Juster (author of The Phantom Tollbooth). It's very small, but it's also very sweet, makes tons of math-y puns, and would be a great add-on to a more substantial present.
posted by violetish at 4:08 PM on September 8, 2010

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