Math 304

Permutation Puzzles: A Mathematical Perspective


This is the course webpage for Math304, Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University. Spring 2021.

MWF 10:30-11:20am Online
Tuesday 12:30-1:20pm Online
Tuesday 1:30-2:20pm Online

  Download course book


Dr. Jamie Mulholland
office: SC  K10541
office hrs:
MWF 11:30-12:30
or by appointment

Teaching Assistant - Sam Simon
office hrs:

About This Course

puzzle images

In this course we will investigate Rubik's cube, the 15-puzzle, TopSpin, and other permutation puzzles. Our goal is to understand theses from a mathematical viewpoint; we will come up with solvability criteria (i.e. the ability to look at a mixed up puzzle and know if it is solvable or if someone is playing a trick on you and reassembled the puzzle in such a way that it cannot be solved), and we will investigate solution strategies.

This course is particularly suited for students doing a minor's degree in Mathematics.

Math majors are encouraged to take Math341: Algebra III Group Theory instead of Math301.

What Will You Learn In This Course?

A list of course level learning outcomes is available in the course outline.

Course Content - The Big Picture:

course concept map (click image to enlarge)


Integral Calculus (Math 152 or 155 or 158) and Linear Algebra (Math 232 or 240). Previous computing experience is not required, but can be helpful if you have it.

Grading Scheme:

Assignments 30%
Midterm 1 25%
Midterm 2 25%
Final/Poster 20%

Important Dates:

Midterm 1 Friday February 26, 2021
Midterm 2 Friday March 26, 2021
Final Project (info) TBA


      New offering this spring!

    September 21, 2020 by Dr. Mulholland

    Math304 will be offered Spring 2021.