Problem Solving with Peg Solitaire
Mathematics Teaching, MT 267 July 2019
The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics
After over thirty years my original University project has been polished and extended and is now in print in the Journal of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics. I am just a little bit thrilled, as much for the Maths content as for the words that communicate Maths. As a student at secondary school, I struggled with English language and was held back a year from taking the O level. I just made a C grade without which I would not have been able to train as a teacher.
The journey to resurrect my article has been very rewarding. Firstly I had to revisit all my old references which thankfully in the new age of the internet was much easier than I had anticipated. In the process, I discovered an amazing coincidence, the author of ‘The ins and outs of peg solitaire’ lives in the same town as me!!!!! Mr John Beasley is a mathematics graduate from Cambridge University. He collaborated with other eminent mathematicians, John Conway being one, in the 1960’s. It was in awe that I went to meet him in February. Indeed, he is a brilliant problem solver and he was soon amazing me with his ability to discuss many different challenges and the possible solutions. Mr Beasley proved the minimum number of moves to solve peg solitaire to be 18. In an effort to impress him, I had learnt the minimum solution. In the event (and no doubt due to some nerves) I struggled to remember the first steps which he prompted me on!!!!
During my research I visited Oxford University to access Beasley’s papers in The Weston library. A meeting with a brilliant undergraduate economist (also an up and coming problem solver) led to an unexpected visit to the main Bodleian library and the Radcliffe camera (Thank you Laura). What an awesome place, academia really does permeate the air. As if I hadn’t had enough excitement I took a visit up to the Andrew Wiles building only to see him walking past me on the stairs!!!!
I submitted my article to the editor of MT on 4th March and finally my humble article came to life last Friday 12th July 2019. I am pleased to say it is an open article so you can access it here on the ATM website.
Thank you to Tony Cotton, the editor and his team for all their support. As an added achievement, I believe (until someone else lets me know otherwise) I am the first woman to write about peg solitaire. Thank you too, to my long suffering family who have just about had enough of all things peg solitaire.