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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Holiday Math Gift Guide: Best Gifts for the Math Enthusiast in Your Life!

 The Holiday Math Gift Guide: 
Best Gifts for the Math Enthusiast in Your Life!

     Happy Holidays! Are you looking for gift ideas for the mathematician in your life this holiday season? Are you a mathematician yourself, making your wish-list and checking it twice? Then this holiday gift guide for the mathematician can help!

     A simple search online will return hundreds, if not, thousands of math-related clothes. Shirts and hats are most-popular and commonly feature mostly-tired math jokes and puns. If you're recipient is a new or young enthusiast, you might add this classic ($23.95, Zazzle) or one like it to their wardrobe. Here's an everyday hat featuring Schrödinger's wave equation ($21.95 at Zazzle).

     When considering clothing, we encourage you to step it up. Accordingly, this year we most like the Mathematics Ugly Christmas Sweater ($34.95, TeeSpring). This 100% cotton, USA made beauty is sure to turn your mathematician into the talk of the party, class or study group. Dealing with somebody who's wishing for a more hands-on present? Why not set them out to knit their own ($16.41, Amazon) ugly math sweater. May we recommend Σ (notably missing from TeeSpring's offering) for your design?

Ugly Math Sweater

     Actually fashionable, Doug McKenna's scarves ($77.00, DMCK Designs) feature fractal tiling patterns inspired by the space-filling curves introduced by 19th century Italian mathematician, Giuseppe Peano.

     For more math clothing ideas, check out Algebra Cat ($22.40, Redbubble), the Center of Math ($9.95, Center of Math) and for the mathematician who's expecting, this cute onesie from TreeHouse Apparel ($14.00, Etsy).

Algebra Cat

     Mathematicians are problem solvers. They like to be challenged and stay sharp. The games and toys you give them should help exercise their minds. We've chosen just a few of our favorites to list here.

     First, mathematicians need peace and quiet in order to exercise the mind. True to ancient Roman design, the Exclusive Wooden Catapult Kit ($29.99, ThinkGeek) is a must-have toy/tool for the mathematician's work space. Loud neighbor? Somebody stealing all your pencils? Once constructed, this catapult will lob objects over 20 feet and is perfect for protecting pencils and peace. If building a toy sounds good, check to see if this Wooden Mechanical Clock Kit (sold out, ThinkGeek) is back in stock.


     We had fun watching Maths Gear explain their Shapes of Constant Width ($12.29, Maths Gear).

     Now, games, particularly strategy games, are tremendously popular. If you're unfamiliar with 2048, Sudoku, STRATEGY, you should start there. We love Perplexus, the makers of brain teasing maze and sequential puzzles. Check out the Perplexus Epic ($28.80, Amazon) for any patient, determined mathematicians you may know. The company advertises the toy as being "like a puzzle inside an enigma, wrapped in a maze, on a date with a a confusion convention." Cool. Traditional games too easy or old? Why not mix it up with a pair of Sicherman Dice ($6.25, Grand Illusions)? You can use these unique dice to play most of the games you normally would without changing the odds!

     First, here's some of this year's most-desired electronic video game gifts, liked by mathematicians: Civilization V, Minecraft, and games from Blizzard Entertainment (including: World of Warcraft, Starcraft 2 and Diablo 3.)

     Of course, to play them you'll need a gaming console or PC. Industry leaders Sony and Microsoft are dueling this season, selling Playstation 4's ($419.99, Amazon) and Xbox One's (349.99, Amazon) respectively. Both are good options but do your homework before buying! For mathematicians interested in gaming and code you should consider buying a PC instead or kit to build your own! The Dell Alienware Area 51 (2014) ($1,699, Dell) is an absolute beast of a machine. New Egg is a good place to buy the parts you'll need to build your own machine. If that's not enough to keep your gamer busy, also gift them Matrices, Vectors and 3D Math: A Game Programming Approach With MATLAB ($9.95, Center of Math).

     For the mathematician excited by aeronautics, we recommend the entry-level Parrot Minidrone Rolling Spider ($99.99, Parrot).

Parrot Minidrone

     Give the gift of a WolframAlpha Pro subscription ($5.49/mo., WolframAlpha). It's perfect for students and is sure to make any mathematician smile.

     None of the above electronics options above have your hair sticking straight up? You could give the gift of a math-movie pack! Check here for Wikipedia's list of films about math and here for Harvard University's Prof. Oliver Knill's "Mathematics in Movies" page. If none of these things make your mathematician happy, simply show them this video explaining the algorithms behind "hitting it off." Offer to pay the registration fee, if there is one. Math and match-making. What's not to love?

     Every mathematician needs a neat (read: cool, not necessarily clean) workspace. Take a look at our best guesses to fill the office or workspace:

     Start with a gift certificate to the preferred caffeine supplier in your local area. For Center of Math employees in New England, that means you're choosing either Dunkin' Donuts or Starbucks gift cards. Each company offers unique features and rewards if the card-holder links the preloaded gift card to the company rewards program. Many mathematicians require coffee. Coffee requires a good mug. We recommend the Chalkboard Mug ($14, Exploratorium) which will allow for uninterrupted sipping and note-taking. If scribbling on a liquid-filled mug sounds like asking for trouble to you, simply go with this classic.

Engineer Mug

     If you have the space, we really like the Offex Mobile Double-sided Magnetic Whiteboard ($299.99, Amazon). Whiteboard or blackboard? You had better check before buying -- some mathematicians won't work on one or the other! We also like Magic Whiteboard ($66.99, MagicWhiteboard) for more confined spaces or the traveling mathematician. Like we recently did in the Center of Math's Studio Classroom, you could upgrade the furniture your mathematician works in! Here's the comfy LexMod mesh chairs our visitors now sit in.

     Thinking smaller (and cheaper): Check out the pure math sculpture art at Bathsheba Sculpture or Henry Segerman's Mathematical Art shop. Or, how about a gift to make your own hypotrochoid art ($8.00, Uncommon Goods). Now you've got the desk and walls covered. How about some plant life? We'd argue the best buy for a mathematician is Sprout Growing Pencils ($24.99, ThinkGeek).

     Finally, a subscription for ad-free music streaming will keep your mathematician moving and grooving. Try Spotify, Pandora or Rdio.

     Any mathematician would appreciate the opportunity to join the American Mathematical Society ($69/yr., AMS) or Mathematics Association of America ($169/mo., MAA) free of charge. Like the Dunks' vs 'Bucks (not sure anybody calls it that) debate above, each organization is unique and you should explore both before purchasing your membership.

     If you had something a bit more grand in mind, consider sending your mathematician on a math-inspired trip! Not sure where to go? San Antonio, TX will host the Joint Mathematics Meetings 2015 in January. Find out more here. MAA's MAAthFest will be in Washington, D.C. in August, 2015. The Center of Math will be at both!

     Texas too big or too far? Consider sending your math-maniac to the one and only Cambridge, MA. The Boston-Cambridge Metro area is ideal for the traveling math enthusiast. Like baseball (the statisticians game)? Triple Crown Travel's East Coast Swing ($2,495, Triple Crown Travel) would bring you here. Should you decide to make the trip, be sure to come find us!

     Let's assume you're unamused. Here's our gathering of nearly-random, miscellaneous math gifts to consider:

     Time-telling: Ever look at a mathematician's clock? Get one here. How about a watch? Try the Maths Equation Watch for Mathematics Nerds ($49.95, Zazzle) or the Prime Time Watch ($38, Uncommon Goods).

     Pi Bowls: Pi Day is rapidly approaching! We like the idea of serving company snacks in the Pi Bowl or Pi Basket. Speaking of Pi, here's an inspired shower curtain.

Pi Shower Curtain
     Lights: 'Tis the Season for lights! We think you should ditch your bulb and try Plumen 001 designer bulbs ($34.95, Plumen). We also came across Studio Cheha Flat LED lamps ($120, Studio Cheha) and had to share.

And last but not least!

     One of the top gifts for mathematicians this year, of course, will be books! We left books off our list. The only books we'll mention here are the always affordable, always accessible digital and print textbooks published right here at the Center of Math ($9.95/29.95, Oh, and this one: Math for the Frightened: Facing Scary Symbols and Everything Else That Freaks You Out About Mathematics.

Did we miss something? Think the mathematician you know would hate this list? Help us get it right in the comments!

Happy Holidays from your very merry math friends at the Center of Math!

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