Math 302

Permutation Puzzles: A Mathematical Perspective


This is the course webpage for Math302, Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University. Fall 2016.

MWF 10:30-11:30 WMC3210
Tuesday 9:30-10:20 SECB1010
Tuesday 12:30-1:20 AQ4140

  Download course book


Dr. Jamie Mulholland
office: SC  K10541
office hrs:
Wed. 12:00-1:30pm in AQ 4145
or by appointment

Teaching Assistant - TBA

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 sovability 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 Math302.

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 (info) 20%

Important Dates:

Midterm 1 Fri. Oct. 14, 2016
Midterm 2 Fri. Nov. 18, 2016
Final/Poster (info) Sat. Dec. 10, 2016 12:00-3:00pm; or
Fri. Dec. 9, 2016 3:30-6:30pm


  •   Term finished

    December 15, 2016 by Dr. Mulholland

    Thanks for the great class everyone. Hope you enjoyed it.
  •   Class set of cubes!

    July 22, 2016 by Dr. Mulholland

    Just arrived today, a set of cubes for our class. cubes image