MATHEMATICAL FICTION:

a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Genre=Didactic

79 matches found out of 1153 entries

(Note: This page not the entire list of works of Mathematical Fiction. To see the whole list, click here.)

Battle of the Frog and the Mouse (1984)
John Barrow
This succinct, well-writtten fable captures the polemics between Hilbert and Brouwer related to Hilbert's Formalist position and Brouwer's Constructivist position vis a vis the foundations of mathematics... (more)
Calculus and Pizza (2003)
Clifford Pickover
A pizza chef teaches calculus to his restaurant patrons. Romance and hilarity ensue. (more)
The Case of the Murdered Mathematician (2001)
Julia Barnes / Kathy Ivey
This story is actually a fictionalized account of the "Murder Mystery" game played by the MAA Student Mathematics Club at Western Carolina University. Clues provide insight into possible motivations... (more)
The Cat in Numberland (2006)
Ivar Ekeland (author) / John O'Brien (illustrator)
This picture book uses the idea of a hotel with infintely many rooms for introducing some advanced concepts about numbers and infinity to children. The hotel, run in the book by "Mr. and Mrs. Hilbert",... (more)
Cálculo Infinitesimal de una variable (1994)
Juan de Burgos Román
Apparently, this Spanish calculus textbook begins each chapter with a "tale". I have not yet had a chance to see the book myself, and so I cannot say for certain whether these really are "fiction" or... (more)
Cálculo Infinitesimal de varias variables (1995)
Juan de Burgos Román
Apparently, this Spanish calculus textbook begins each chapter with a "tale". I have not yet had a chance to see the book myself, and so I cannot say for certain whether these really are "fiction" or... (more)
A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel (2007)
Highly Rated!
Gaurav Suri / Hartosh Singh Bal
The intertwined stories of Ravi, a Stanford student taking a course on "Infinity" in the 1980's, and his grandfather who was jailed for blasphemy in New Jersey in 1919 constitute a philosophical investigation... (more)
Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World (1995)
Clifford Pickover
Devoted to a society of mathematicians living in a subterranean chamber of Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. Status in their societies is determined by the beauty of their fractal dreams. Fractal weapons, chaos theory, the Lyapunov exponent, and strange attractors are featured. (more)
Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math and Probability (2000)
Highly Rated!
Colin Bruce
To follow-up on his clever popular physics book that explains modern physics using Sherlock Holmes as a guide, Oxford based writer Colin Bruce has written a book that teaches some important mathematical... (more)
Conversations on Mathematics with a Visitor from Outer Space (1998)
David Ruelle
As the title implies, this is a description of (presumably fictional) discussions that the author had with an alien about mathematics and, in particular, the way that Earth mathematics differs from... (more)
Crimes and Math Demeanors (2007)
Leith Hathout
The short mysteries in this book remind me of "Encyclopedia Brown". After a brief description of a sometimes contrived dilemma facing our young detective -- 14 year old Ravi -- you are given an opportunity... (more)
Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959)
Highly Rated!
Hamilton Luske (director)
Disney's Donald Duck takes an adventure to a land where mathematics "comes alive". (Animated short.) I used this video in my 6th grade classroom. The kids enjoyed watching ... (more)
Dude, can you count? (2010)
Christian Constanda
Utilizing the entertaining contrivance of an extraterrestrial who visits human math conferences to evaluate our intelligence, Constanda tells us what he thinks is wrong with math education today. Following... (more)
An Episode of Flatland (1907)
Charles H. Hinton
Hinton, whose biography is a little too weird for me to believe and whose essays on the fourth dimension (see for example A New Era of Thought) leave me wondering how much he really believed that the fourth... (more)
Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879)
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll)
I have long known that mathematician Charles Dodgson, who wrote the famous Alice stories under the pseudonym "Lewis Carroll", also wrote a book defending Euclid's ancient text as the best for teaching... (more)
The Extraordinary Hotel or the Thousand and First Journey of Ion the Quiet (1968)
Highly Rated!
Stanislaw Lem
Here, the famous Polish author toys with the counter-intuitive nature of the countably-infinite by postulating the existence of an intergalactic hotel with rooms indexed by the positive integers. For instance,... (more)
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884)
Highly Rated!
Edwin Abbott Abbott
This is the classic example of mathematical fiction in which the author helps us to think about the meaning of "dimension" through fictional example: a visit to a world with only two spatial dimensions.... (more)
Flatterland: like Flatland, only more so (2001)
Highly Rated!
Ian Stewart
In this "sequel" to Flatland, popular mathematics writer Ian Stewart lets us accompany the granddaugther of the original "A. Square" who starred in original classic, as she learns about fractal dimensions,... (more)
A Foundation in Wisdom (2012)
Robert Loyd Watson
A hitchhiker named Sheridan captivates the man kind enough to offer him a ride with fantastic tales of the Roman village of Ebon and the hero named Marcus who saved it from a giant dachshund named Dachy. Both... (more)
Freud's Megalomania: A Novel (2001)
Israel Rosenfield
This is an intriguing piece of work, mixing fact with fiction and different styles (from the scientific essay to the diary), probably best understood as an ironic look upon the "Freud wars".... (more)
Gödel, Escher Bach: an eternal golden braid (1979)
Highly Rated!
Douglas Hofstadter
Pulitzer Prize wining book whose chapters alternate between fictional "dialogues" and more standard non-fiction format to present ideas from philosophy, art, music and psychology as well as mathematical... (more)
Gauß, Eisenstein, and the ``third'' proof of the Quadratic Reciprocity Theorem: Ein kleines Schauspiel (1994)
Reinhard C. Laubenbacher / David J. Pengelley
It is presented as a dialogue/drama between Gauss and Eisenstein, talking about the third proof of Gauss's reciprocity theorem (perhaps the actors are supposed to draw symbols in the air to make the... (more)
Globión's Whimsical Shape (La Caprichosa Forma de Globión) (1999)
Alejandro Illanes Mejía
It is a tale about the quest of the inhabitants of Globión to find the true shape of their home planet. It also explains in a crystal-clear way some very abstract notions of topology of surfaces, and... (more)
The Gnome and the Pearl of Wisdom: A Fable (1977)
Highly Rated!
Richard Willmott
A greedy gnome with a countably infinite collection of marbles wants to trade it with Merlin the mathematician for his beautiful "pearl of wisdom". Merlin takes advantage of the gnomes unfamiliarity... (more)
Gulliver's Posthumous Travels to Riemann's Land and Lobachevskia (1947)
William Pepperell Montague
In this sequel to Swift's classic Gulliver's Travels (which is also mathematical), Barnard College philosopher Montague tells us of his dreams in which Gulliver shares with him the non-Euclidean geometry... (more)
Harvey Plotter and the Circle of Irrationality (2011)
Nathan Carter / Dan Kalman
Harvey Plotter, who has a scar shaped like a radical sign on his forehead, must find all of the rational points on the circularum unititatus before the evil Lord Voldemorphism. The reader follows... (more)
Hilbert's Hotel (1999)
Ian Stewart
Another take on the idea (attributed to lectures by David Hilbert) that the bizarre properties of the countably infinite can best be presented through the analogy of a hotel. Here, Mr. and Mrs. Smith... (more)
Infinities (2002)
John Barrow
This play, written by Cambridge cosmologist John Barrow, has been produced and performed in Italy (Milan and Valencia). It is made up of five separate vignettes several of which touch on the deep mathematics... (more)
Into Thin Air (2000)
Colin Adams
This was the first of Colin Adams' ``Mathematically Bent'' columns for the Mathematical Intelligencer, published back in Vol.22, No. 1, 2000. It combines many of the analogies between mountain climbing... (more)
Intoxicating Heights (Höhenrausch. Die Mathematik des XX. Jahrhunderts in zwanzig Gehirnen) (2003)
Dietmar Dath
Word by word I would translate Dath's "Höhenrausch" as "High-altitude Euphoria. Mathematics of the 20th century in 20 brains". It is a collection of short stories and fictional portraits of (I copy... (more)
Jayden's Rescue (2002)
Highly Rated!
Vladimir Tumanov
I am the author of a children's math mystery novel entitled Jayden's Rescue and Published by Scholastic Canada. This novel's plot revolves around mathematical puzzles for the grades 4-6 level. The... (more)
Journey into Geometries (1997)
Marta Sved
It is styled after a frequently-used device: "Alice in X", where X can be any kind of space which you wish to explain to the gentle reader. In this instance, Alice, along with Lewis Carroll and a Doctor... (more)
Kandelman's Krim: A Realistic Fantasy (1957)
John Lighton Synge
Thanks for Tony Vance for pointing out to me that this novel by mathematical physicist J.L. Synge should be included in my database. It is difficult to find now, but it is clear that at the time of its... (more)
The Kissing Number (1992)
Ian Stewart
Published as part of his "Mathematical Recreations" column in Scientific American (February 1992), this story concerns human colonists on Mars who are trying to figure out how many non-overlapping "circular"... (more)
Letters to a Young Mathematician (2006)
Highly Rated!
Ian Stewart
I listed this one here before I had a chance to read it and am now wondering whether it should be counted as fiction at all. This is an excellent book which provides a lot of useful information about... (more)
A Little Mathematician - Katie (2002)
Tadashi Miura
A sweet little book by an author who wanted to be a math teacher and hopes he can "introduce the joy of learning mathematics to every student in this world through this story". A little girl named Katie... (more)
Little Zero the Seafarer [Captain One's frigate] (1968)
Vladimir Levshin
[This Russian children's novel] is about the titular character (who appears in the other books [by Levshin]), sailing from the A bay through arithmetical, algebraical and geometrical seas, learning... (more)
The Loom of God: Mathematical Tapestries at the Edge of Time (1997)
Clifford Pickover
A group of time travelers journey back to the time of Pythagoras in an effort to see the origins of mystical mathematics. The journey continues as they explore numerous links between mathematics, nature and mysticism. Concepts featured: pentagonal numbers, perfect numbers, oblong numbers, the golden ratio, and fractals. Religious implications are also discussed. (more)
Los relatos de Gudor Ben Jusá: Cuentos y consejas con algo de matemáticas más son pocas y de las viejas (1994)
Juan de Burgos Román
A compilation of 40 short stories of mathematical fiction by Juan de Burgos, including those from his calculus books and his 1994 commencement address. Published by Fundación General de la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, 1994. (more)
Lost in Lexicon: An Adventure in Words and Numbers (2010)
Pendred Noyce
This novel for middle school aged children seems at first rather similar to the Phantom Tollbooth, which was apparently a source of inspiration for its author. The plot is familiar: a boy and girl travel... (more)
Lucy and David and the God Equation (2011)
Alan McKenzie
Lucy, a freshman at a Scottish University, and David, the graduate student who leads the problem sessions for her physics class, discuss the mathematical and philosophical implications of Gödel's First... (more)
Magic Squares (1977)
Paul Calter
A very unconventionally written mystery story full of well placed and well-integrated problems in mathematics, which makes this a great book to be included in a course on ‘mathematics in literature’.... (more)
The Man Who Counted : A Collection of Mathematical Adventures (1949)
Highly Rated!
Malba Tahan
The Man who counted: delightful adventures of a medieval arabic mathematician. It is aimed at young readers (10+) but can be enjoyed by all. The mathematics is elementary but is all correct and nicely... (more)
Math Curse (1995)
Highly Rated!
Jon Scieszka / Lane Smith (illustrator)
In this children's picture book, the main character finds that "anything can be a math problem" when her elementary school teacher puts a math curse on her. For example: Unfortunately for me, LUNCH... (more)
Math Girls (2007)
Highly Rated!
Hiroshi Yuki
Three high school friends work through some difficult mathematical ideas in this book, recently translated into English from the Japanese original. The author is apparently well known in Japan for his... (more)
Math Patrol (1977)
Highly Rated!
TV Ontario
"Math Patrol was a 15-minute long educational TV series produced in the late 1970s by TV Ontario about the adventures of a secret agent named "Sydney" who dressed up as a kangaroo with a blue trenchcoat.... (more)
A Mathematical Mystery Tour: Discovering the Truth and Beauty of the Cosmos (1999)
Highly Rated!
A.K. Dewdney
A "chicken and the egg"-type question of interest to fans of mathematics is this: "Are mathematical results discovered or invented?" To answer this question, A.K. Dewdney takes a "mathematical" tour... (more)
The Mathematician’s Nightmare: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt (1954)
Bertrand Russell
This short story by [renowned philosopher and mathematician Bertrand] Russell is a mild satire on numerology, taking [Sir Arthur] Eddington’s obsession with it and spinning it as a “nightmare”... (more)
Mathmakers (1978)
TV Ontario
Canadian television show (circa 1978) about making a television show. Humorous story lines illustrate mathematical concepts. "The program was developed and produced by TVOntario in 1978. Each episode... (more)
The Next Dimension (1947)
Vladimir Karapetoff
"A Mathematical Play in Five Dialogs". Once again, we are treated to the Flatland notion of two-dimensional creatures pondering a "hypothetical" three dimensional existence. Many of the usual concerns... (more)
Not a Chance (2009)
Peter Haff
A student harangues his physics professor about the possibility that all mathematical proofs are incorrect. His argument is based on the supposed uncertainty about the validity of proofs of the Four Color... (more)
Number 9: The Search for the Sigma Code (1998)
Cecil Balmond
A young boy learns about mathematics while trying to solve a mathematical puzzle. "As a teacher and Education Inspector in England I would rate this book very highly. It is extremely well written... (more)
The Number Devil (Der Zahlenteufel) (1997)
Highly Rated!
Hans Magnus Enzensberger
"The title may be translated as The Counting Devil, or maybe The Number Devil, and it has a subtitle that translates to 'a pillowbook for everyone who is afraid of math'. Enzensberger is a respected... (more)
The Parrot's Theorem (2000)
Highly Rated!
Denis Guedj
This is an ambitious novel, a magical fantasy about a talking parrot bought at a flea market in France who, with the help of the personal library of a reclusive mathematical genius, teaches some children... (more)
Professor Conundrum Mysteries! (2008)
Bill Streifer
My book, Professor Conundrum Mysteries!...combines math education (non-fiction) and historical fiction. The book consists of five stories that take place during important events in 20th century U.S.... (more)
Pythagoras Eagle & the Music of the Spheres (2003)
Anne Carse Nolting
A very well-written, highly mathematical novel for 5th – 6th graders. Three children – Shawna, Adin and Tavia – are math aficionados and are trying to crack the Beale Ciphers, a set of 3 documents... (more)
Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery (2009)
Arturo Sangalli
Freelance science journalist Sangalli has written a book which presents some historical information about Pythagoras and his beliefs in the form of a novel of the detail driven conspiracy theory adventure... (more)
Pythagorean Crimes (2006)
Highly Rated!
Tefcros Michaelides
This murder mystery takes place amid the exciting developments occurring in the mathematical and artistic communities in Europe between 1900 and 1931. Much of what one will learn by reading this book... (more)
Ramanujan’s Miracles – A Drama To Demystify Mathematics (1997)
R.N. Kapur
A dramatization involving a particular problem which Ramanujan had solved and how two teenagers reason out why the solution works. Scene 1 of the drama has Mahalanobis and Ramanujan in conversation... (more)
Report from the Ambassador to Cida-2 (2008)
Clifton Cunningham
The human selected to communicate with the aquatic aliens of Cida-2 is surprised to learn that their number system differs from our own. In particular, although our communication with the extra-terrestrials... (more)
Riot at the Calc Exam and Other Mathematically Bent Stories (2009)
Colin Adams
Finally, a collection of hilarious mathematical stories by Colin Adams! Most of these stories were previously published in his Mathematically Bent column in the Mathematical Intelligencer. Only one is... (more)
The Romance of Mathematics: Being the Original Researches of a Lady Professor of Girtham College... (1886)
Peter Hampson Ditchfield
The Reverend Peter Hampson Ditchfield (1854-1930) was the author of many novels and histories, including this odd piece that claims to be compiled from the lecture notes and diaries of a "lady professor",... (more)
The Rose Acacia (1995)
Ralph P. Boas, Jr.
"A computer makes a deal with the devil, with the usual escape clause: if it can ask a question the devil cannot answer, the computer gets the information for free. As the devil puts it, no logical paradoxes,... (more)
The Shackles of Conviction (2008)
James R. Meyer
This novel intersperses a fictionalized account of the life of Kurt Gödel with the modern tale of an engineer who realizes (and eventually convinces the world) that Gödel's proof was flawed and that his (more)
Shakespeare Predicted it All (2003)
Dietmar Dath
An artistically composed piece about Georg Cantor, inventor of the theory of transfinite cardinals, in the form of a dialogue between the characters "1" and "2", both of whom are either Cantor or Hamlet.... (more)
Sophie's Diary (2004)
Highly Rated!
Dora Musielak
Sophie Germain famously studied mathematics at night by candlelight despite her parents' insistence that she give up this unfeminine discipline. She then went on to become one of the great mathematician's... (more)
Sphereland: A Fantasy About Curved Spaces and an Expanding Universe (1965)
Highly Rated!
Dionys Burger
This "sequel" to Flatland deals in a very simplistic sense with the notion of intrinsic curvature (curvature of space itself) in the same way that the original dealt with dimension. (See also the more... (more)
Sticks (2002)
Joan Bauer
Fifth grader Mickey Vernon gets help from his "math whiz" friend in beating a bully at pool in this novel for children. Some reviewers complained that the plot was slow and that the harping on mathematics... (more)
The Strange Case of Mr. Jean D. (1983)
Joao Filipe Queiro
Published in the Mathematical Intelligencer magazine (Math.Intell. 5, 3 78-90 (1983)) this is the story of a mathematician who has a nightmare: Pi is rational! (Thanks to Nuno Crato for the suggestion.) (more)
Surfing through Hyperspace (2001)
Clifford Pickover
FBI agents investigate the disappearance of people abducted into the fourth dimension. Along the way, the agents learn about degrees of freedom, quaternions, nonorientable surfaces, mathematics of hyperspheres, and numerous other mathematics relating to higher spatial geometries. (more)
Surreal Numbers: How Two Ex-Students Turned on to Pure Mathematics and Found Total Happiness (1974)
Don Knuth
The famous computer scientist (known to many grateful mathematicians as the creator of TeX) presents Conway's "surreal numbers" in the form of a fictionalized dialogue. Includes exercises! It... (more)
Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893)
Lewis Carroll
The sequel to his somewhat popular book "Sylvie and Bruno" never achieved the popularity of the original. This lack of success may or may not be related to Chapter VII (entitled "Mein Herr") of the... (more)
A Tangled Tale (1886)
Highly Rated!
Lewis Carroll
A collection of ten mathematical puzzles in story form by the famous author/mathematician Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll). "The reason I answered 3 for "Mathematical Content" is that all the math... (more)
Three Days in Karlikania (1964)
Vladimir Levshin
A children's fantasy novel written in Russian. I have not been able to find much about it but Rob Milson says: Three children travel to Karlikania, an enchanted land populated by numerals. Here they... (more)
Turing (A Novel About Computation) (2003)
Highly Rated!
Christos Papadimitriou
The four vertices of an unlikely love "rectangle" are (a) a dying, maverick cryptographer, (b) a pregnant Internet wiz, (c) a romantic middle-aged Greek archaeologist and (d) Turing, an artificially intelligent... (more)
Uncle Georg's Attic (2002)
Ben Schumacher
This short story appeared in the September 2002 issue of "Math Horizons", published by the Mathematical Association of America. In it, some kids look through an attic containing lots of stuff belonging... (more)
The Universal Library [Die Universalbibliothek] (1901)
Kurd Lasswitz
This early "science fiction" story explores the notion of a library containing every possible five hundred page book and an English translation appears in the classic mathematical fiction collection Fantasia... (more)
The Unknowns: A Mystery (2009)
Highly Rated!
Benedict Carey
A novel for middle school children which aims to teach mathematical concepts as the young protagonists try to solve the mystery of the disappearances in their neighborhood. I thoroughly enjoyed the... (more)
Zéro, ou les Cinq vies d'Aemer (2005)
Denis Guedj
This novel traces the history of the number `zero' through the lives of five different women, living in five different eras, but all living in the same place: Mesopotamia/Iraq. Guedj is already known... (more)

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Your Help Needed: Some site visitors remember reading works of mathematical fiction that neither they nor I can identify. It is time to crowdsource this problem and ask for your help! You would help a neighbor find a missing pet...can't you also help a fellow site visitor find some missing works of mathematical fiction? Please take a look and let us know if you have seen these missing stories anywhere!.

(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)