Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) is best known as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), published under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Though Dodgson enjoyed huge and unexpected success with his writing for children, he was first and foremost a mathematician. He taught up to his death at Christ Church College, Oxford, specialising in geometry, algebra and logic, while publishing and writing about maths under his real name.
In this book, published in 1887, mathematician Dodgson takes a popular approach (hence the use of the pen-name) to teaching mathematics. Though called a ‘game’, it is in the sense of creative mental play, rather than a contest. It aims to teach the fundamentals of logic by asking players to place counters on a board in certain ways to denote cakes with certain characteristics (tasty, non-tasty, fresh, not-fresh).
Such spatial representation of logical statements is similar to that of Venn diagrams, devised in 1880 by John Venn (1834-1923). As usual with Victorian children’s literature, the learning outcome is serious. The explanatory text, however, is very much in the light-hearted Lewis Carroll style, full of humorous, colourful asides, and straight-faced absurdity – such as in the introduction, which stresses the ‘game’ is for at least one player.