The books of Yakov Perelman

Russian Math forms the traditional basis for all other maths (except Greek & Arabic), but including Chinese, Indian, Singapore, and European. Russian Math saw the peak of its influence during the Soviet Period in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, when math students all over the world used Russian Textbooks as well as Russian methods of teaching Mathematics.

The foundation of "Math Culture" in Russia was laid down long before that. Its fame had started with a famous book, Physics for Entertainment, which had been published in 1913 and became a best-seller in the 1930s. Currently out of print, Physics for Entertainment has been translated from Russian into dozens of languages and influenced many math and science students around the world. One of those was the famous mathematician Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman (unrelated to the author), who solved the Poincaré conjecture and who was awarded the Fields Medal. Grigori’s father, an electrical engineer by profession, gave Grigori the Physics for Entertainment to encourage his son’s interest in mathematics.

In the foreword, the book’s author describes the content as “conundrums, brain-teasers, entertaining anecdotes and unexpected comparisons,” adding, “I have quoted extensively from Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain and other writers, because, besides providing entertainment, the fantastic experiments these writers describe may well serve as instructive illustrations at physics classes.” The book’s topics included such inspirational anecdotes like "how to jump from a moving car" and "why, according to the law of buoyancy, we would never drown in the Dead Sea.” Ideas from this book are still used by science teachers today.

Our "Fun Math" blog includes some illustrated problems from this book, translated to English.

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