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Learning Operations Research Through Puzzles and Games

Learning Operations Research Through Puzzles and Games

J. Cole Smith

ISBN: 978-1-118-91184-6

Jul 2020

320 pages

Select type: O-Book


The operations research (OR) field is not well understood by the general public, although many of the world’s largest companies rely on it daily to manage large tactical and strategic planning problems.  OR is one of the key ingredients for running modern complex organizations, but the discipline sits out of view, well outside the attention of the layperson, and even beyond the view of many other engineers and mathematicians.  Younger students having a strong mathematical curiosity, but insufficient technical background – and a lack of proper motivation – to encourage them to explore topics like OR. As such, this book emphasizes the fun and entertainment of puzzle solving in an effort to draw readers in and  help them to fully understand the real-world challenges typically faced by the OR community.  When trying to solve these problems, readers are provided with the materials needed to see how to attack the problems in an organized and effective manner.  Piece by piece, readers will acquire the components of OR techniques.  With an understanding of the puzzle and the “trick” for solving it, each chapter explains where and how the puzzles arise in real-world settings.  The chapters conclude with a chance to solve (or at least model) a similar puzzle to the one used to motivate the chapter.  Chapter 1 (an introduction to OR)  and Chapter 2 (a background refresher on probability and calculus) are introductory, and Chapter 3 (Relay Races) and Chapter 4 (Spies and Cuts) deal with network flow problems in a manner that does not require any algebraic knowledge at all.  Chapter 5 (Going Home) and Chapter 6 (The Last Straw) cover dynamic programming requiring a very limited knowledge of algebra.  Chapter 7 (Snakes and Ladders) and Chapter 8 (What's for Dinner?) examine Markov chains, systems of equations, and linear programming models and requires some algebraic concepts.  Chapter 9 (Balancing Act) and Chapter 10 (Guarding the Mona Lisa) delve into combinatorics via constraint programming, enumeration, and integer programming.  Chapter 11 (More Games) and Chapter 12 (How to Learn More) conclude the book.  An interactive related website is freely available for anyone who wished to practice the skills and techniques discussed throughout the book.