As a farewell gift, on my retirement
from the directorship of NRICH, members of the team organised a day
in Cambridge when colleagues and friends I have worked with over
the years came together. Many of those who attended, as well
as some who could not make it, sent 'retirement presents' in
the form of problems to solve. The morning was devoted to
working on some of those problems. We sat in groups and, as each
problem was presented, enjoyed the challenge of doing mathematics
together. All the problems were engaging, though there were many
more than we had time for on the day.
In January 2011 the NRICH team has
decided to write problems for the site based on some of those they
received as 'presents'. I would like to thank everyone who
contributed or turned up on the day. Not all of the problems
are represented in the January edition of the site but I am sure
many of the others will pop up over the coming months and
As I wrote the title to this article I intended it to reflect my
time at NRICH, my short spell of what you might nominally
recall 'retirement' since, and my continuing mathematical journey.
It occurred to me however that another interpretation might
be the process of problem solving itself. After all, every problem is a
challenge to which we apply past knowledge and experiences, and
a trick or two that we think might be useful on the way (see Trick or Treat?).
As we proceed, we look forward towards our potential solution to
see if we are heading in the right direction. When we problem
solve we 'look backward' at past experiences that might be useful
and 'forward' to the way ahead. Having written much about
problem solving over the years, my aim in this short article is to
offer a glimpse of me as a problem solver.