Going to the Gathering 4 Gardner!

Do you have mentors in your life who have inspired you?  I have been fortunate to have had many people help me become the person I am today.  First, my parents.  My mom has taught me that an independent woman can do anything she sets her mind to.  My dad was a mathematics teacher who instilled in me a love for math and was my biggest cheerleader up until his death just 1.5 years ago.  My husband, Chris, is my rock and my foundation.  I couldn’t travel and do what I do today if it wasn’t for him. 

And then there are people who I’ve met in my life who have mentored me to get to where I am today.  One of these people is Martin Gardner.  If you don’t know who he is, you need to.  I’m not sure if I can put into words the influence he’s had not only on my life, but on countless others.   I’ve been lucky enough to have developed a friendship with Martin over the last four years.  I’ll never forget how it all began. 

Martin Gardner and I - Dec 2009

I mentioned to Bill Ritchie how much I admired Martin and what he’s done.  I am very interested in recreational mathematics and Martin had redefined this subject through writing a column for 25 years in Scientific American called Mathematical Games.  Bill told me that he’d be happy to introduce me to Martin.  I was thrilled!  Bill talked with Martin and told him I’d love a chance to talk with him.  So I’ll never forget on May 15th, 2006, I gave Martin a call.  I remember talking with him for about an hour as we shared introductions and I told him all the things I was trying to do in education through puzzles and recreational mathematics.  I remember at the end of our conversation I got emotional as I told him how much it meant to me that he took the time to talk with me amd how much I admired his work.  To my surprise and delight, he told me how much he enjoyed our conversation as well and asked me if I’d like to call him again tomorrow.  Well that was the start of a wonderful friendship.  I still call him now every few weeks and even visit him once a year.  As Bill calls it,  “my pilgrimage” to Martin.  He’s now 95 years old and his friendship is one of the greatest treasures of my life.

John Conway and I - Gathering 2008

Tomorrow I leave for the Gathering 4 Gardner.  This is a conference that occurs every other year in Atlanta where by invitation only about 300 people from all over the world congregate to celebrate Martin’s main bodies of work – mathematics, puzzles and magic.  Here some of the top people in these three fields gather to discuss recent works.  My first time at G4G was in 2008 where I met so many incredible people including many of the authors of the mathematics books in my personal library.   Too many to mention here but one of the highlights was meeting the authors of one of my favourite books (all four volumes) called Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, by Elwyn Berlekamp, John Conway, and Richard Guy.  I had all three of them sign my volumes. 

So I’m off to the Gathering tomorrow!  Bill and I have put together a collection of every product ThinkFun has produced in its 25 years.  It will be exciting to see it all together!  I also can’t wait to touch base with some great inventors and in general just really smart people.  Martin won’t be there, he doesn’t attend himself.  But we’ll all be thinking of him as we continue to celebrate how he’s affected all of our lives. 

Who are the mentors in your life?

3 comments to Going to the Gathering 4 Gardner!

  • Josh

    Great blog, Tan! Really enjoyed it, looking forward to following your trips!

  • Jason Roy

    Tanya, loving the new blog. It would be awesome if you could turn that collection of all the Think Fun puzzles you guys ever made into a web site museum or something. Would love to read you and Bill’s thoughts on the puzzles.

  • @Jason: I agree! ThinkFun should have a document of all those puzzles on-line. I did take photos of all the ones we displayed at G4G and when there I took videos of Bill telling the stories behind some of them when he had visitors come by who were interested. So that was really fun as I learned a ton about the history at ThinkFun. I told Bill (and he agrees) that it’d be really great to have a video documentary of all those great stories. Thanks for the input! I really appreciate hearing from you!

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