A Mathematical Gift Guide

Some of the cherished math swag I’ve received over the years.

It’s that time of year again. The semester is winding down, mathematically rigorous 6-fold symmetric snowflakes deck the halls, and Mariah Carey is on the top of the Spotify charts. And while all Mariah wants for Christmas is YOU, finding the perfect gift for your special mathematical someone might not be so simple. But here are some suggestions to ease that gift hunting anxiety.

The best thing any mathematician can have is a good notebook and smart writing tools. I swear by the beautiful Japanese made Apica Premium C.D. Notebook, size B5, plain pages. It’s the perfect size to tote around to conferences, on trains, plains, and buses. The pages are smooth and thick enough to write with a fountain pen, but not so precious that you can’t tear one out for the occasional grocery list. To really optimize your experience I am a fan of the Lamy Safari fountain pen or, if you really want to know it, a Faber-Castell mechanical pencil.

But maybe that’s a bit too practical to really gift someone other than yourself.

The designers Christopher Hanusa and Uyen Nguyen are about to launch a new line of Riemondrian jewelry, which features pieces inspired by Riemann sums but done in the style of the artist Piet Mondrian. Hanusa, an artist and a math professor at Queens College in New York, hosts his whole collection of mathematical jewelry on his website. Nguyen, an origami artist and photographer, keeps a beautifully curated instagram page of incredible feats in paper folding.

If you’re looking for good mathematical books to buy your besties, my top pick of the last year is definitely Hello World by Hannah Fry. Also, the consistently awesome Quanta just published a collection of essays about “the biggest ideas in math” edited by Thomas Lin. If you need further inspiration, math and science writer Dana Mackenzie also has his mathematical book endorsements on Five Books.

And finally, if games are your thing, then I have some ideas for you. First up, Decrypto is a team game where opposing teams trying to encrypt and decrypt messages without being intercepted. From the reviews it sounds similar to Codenames but with a little bit extra. For the programming fiend in your friend circle, I highly recommend Roborally. The gist is that each player has to move a robot across a crowded factory floor by programming the moves using a sequence of cards without getting stopped by loops, pits, and lasers. It’s super frustrating, and super fun.

For dice of all sorts, roll on over to Maths Gear, the site where Steve Mould, Matt Parker and James Grime sell all the cool maths things you see in their videos. They also have a nice collection of games, kitchen gadgets, and Rubik’s like cubes. And don’t worry, it’s a UK site but they ship to the US. Just be sure to get your orders in early.

And if you’re really looking to impress, go for this 10.5 inch white bonded marble-cast bust of Pythagoras. My brother gave this to me several Christmases ago, and you can’t imagine the gravitas it lends my office.

While on the topic of Christmas, I have to endorse The Aperiodical’s Apriodvent Calendar. Each day in December leading up to Christmas they reveal a new mathematical curiosity, from homemade parabolic Christmas cards to mathematically non-trivial Christmas decorations, and once again I’m so darn impressed. Aperiodical editors: you are #goals.

Happy gifting and happy end of semester, and let me know @extremefriday if you get any extra special mathematical swag this year.

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7 Responses to A Mathematical Gift Guide

  1. Alvaro Lozano-Robledo says:

    Thanks for the suggestions, Anna! I have bought (mostly for myself) a bunch of the t-shirts at Cool Math Gear (https://shop.spreadshirt.com/math-gear/) and even a baby onesie for a friend, and I really like them.

  2. Evelyn Lamb says:

    Diana Davis (a mathematician at Swarthmore) recently opened an Etsy shop where she sells t-shirts and laser-cut jewelry based on her research about tilings in billiards: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MathIsBeautiful/?fbclid=IwAR1-ZLRf2jBEVKfmLC6cCp-4igxjpVKTA4tVwUmtJi3UoM7xlrO28pOwANQ

  3. Mahrud Sayrafi says:

    I just found this amazing poster of every geometric illustration from Byrne’s 1847 edition of Euclid’s Elements: https://c82.net/euclid/posters

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