Spencer-Brown discovers kid's favorite mathematical riddle Laws of Form.

In the past 2 weeks we went over the great mathematicians Euclid and Ramanujan and their enormous impact on mathematics. This week we introduce our third mathematician in NoBoxToday Kids Mathematics. A very special person that discovered a mathematical concept found especially interesting by both adults and kids.

Spencer-Brown was a English mathematician that worked with his brother at the British Railways company where they created an electronic system to prevent trains from confronting on the same rails. In order to explain their system he wrote the book Laws of Form that was published in 1969.

In the book Spencer-Brown describes a minimalist mathematical operation which is the distinction of an object from its surrounding. He called this operation “distinction”. This operation can also be represented as a circle – the simplest shape separating the inner area from outside. The mathematical objects that mathematicians create are, according to the teachings of Spencer-Brown, combinations of circles that don't overlap, where the relationships of the circles are the “forms of number”.

This innovative book actually fulfills the vision of Leibniz to create a universal language consisting of a single letter. The impact of this innovative language is that it is a breakthrough over the normal linear language. In this new language we can not only put a letter beside a letter, but also a letter inside a letter.

A screenshot from NoBoxToday showing a circle inside circle and a circle beside a circle. The two forms of number 2.

Spencer-Brown worked on other famous mathematical problems as well, like the 4 Color Problem (Every 2D map can be colored using only 4 colors so that neighboring countries will never be the same color). Another unresolved mathematical problem that Spencer-Brown worked on was the famous mathematical riddle – the Riemann Hypothesis.

A child in a kindergarten learning about the 4 color problem. Part of activity in Moshe Klein's popular mathematics learning program for kindergartens.

In NoBoxToday kids see an animated story about Spencer-Brown walking his usual path from Cambridge University and crosses the Mathematical bridge. He stops on the bridge to wonder an idea and makes an interesting discovery. You can watch the animated story below.

After the story kids continue to play exercise games and discover for themselves the distinctive forms of given numbers of circles. We call the discovered combinations “Forms of Number”. See a short gameplay video below.

Go ahead, download NoBoxToday and try Forms of Numbers for yourself.