Math as a plaything is something most mathematicians take for granted. It is one of the main reasons we choose to study math as a discipline: Many of us "played" a lot when we were kids. We marveled at logic puzzles, looked for patterns and clues in complicated word problems, played tricks with the double meanings of words and phrases and generally devoured games that rewarded the player when one can uncover the proper strategy. Martin Gardner was a wonder at finding the mathematics hidden in playful puzzles and tricky games. His "Mathematical Games" series in Scientific American, something on the order of 300 columns from 1956 to 1986, is a true treasure trove of beautiful, yet playful mathematics.
Now, Manil Suri, a professor in the Mathematics Department of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, writes in the New York Times of this importance of the recreational side of mathematics, especially at the primary and secondary levels, citing Gardner's work. The piece is