Dana Richards emailed us about a place to write how Martin Gardner influenced you. You can leave such comments here. I left a comment there, but I expand it for this blog entry.
When I got interested in mathematics in high school I went to the public library looking for math books (this was before Al Gore invented the internet). I found some books by Martin Gardner and began reading them. They were just right for the level of math I was on at the time. My very first proof that I read on my own (outside of a class) was in those books- the proof that (in the terminology I use now) a graph is Eulerian iff every vertex has even degree.
I learned about SOMA cubes (I bought a set and did every puzzle in the book in about 2 days.This is the only evidence that as a kid I was good at math). I learned the unexpected hanging paradox which confused me then (and still does). I learned the hercules-hydra game and other games that go on for a LOOOOOOOOOONG time. They are related to things in logic. I also learned about NIM games which I have used as a starting point for several student projects.
There have been some conferences in his honors, the Gathering-for-Gardner. I had the pleasure of reviewing some of the books from it. (My review is here.) These articles show that while his work was recreational this is not a well defined term- some if relates to very important and deep mathematics, and some deep math has arisen from such problems. The books also have articles about Gardner the Magician.
In the 2000's some of his books were reprinted and I was asked to review them for my SIGACT News book review column. I took this opp to do a joint review of several math recreational books. What a delight to reread his books and contrast them to those of his successors. And I STILL learned some math that I didn't know from them. (My review is here.)
Shortly before a column appears I always email the authors-of-books, authors-of-reviews, and publishers a first draft of my column. His publisher told me that he didn't use email (he was in his 90's!) so I postal mailed him my review. He read it, corrected some typos, but otherwise was quite happy with the review. He died a few months later. I was happy to have some contact, albeit short, with the man who helped keep me interested in math in high school and beyond.