Mythematics: Solving the Twelve Labors of Hercules

Mythematics: Solving the Twelve Labors of Hercules

Mythematics: Solving the Twelve Labors of Hercules

Mythematics: Solving the Twelve Labors of Hercules


How might Hercules, the most famous of the Greek heroes, have used mathematics to complete his astonishing Twelve Labors? From conquering the Nemean Lion and cleaning out the Augean Stables, to capturing the Erymanthean Boar and entering the Underworld to defeat the three-headed dog Cerberus, Hercules and his legend are the inspiration for this book of fun and original math puzzles.

While Hercules relied on superhuman strength to accomplish the Twelve Labors, Mythematics shows how math could have helped during his quest. How does Hercules defeat the Lernean Hydra and stop its heads from multiplying? Can Hercules clean the Augean Stables in a day? What is the probability that the Cretan Bull will attack the citizens of Marathon? How does Hercules deal with the terrifying Kraken? Michael Huber's inventive math problems are accompanied by short descriptions of the Twelve Labors, taken from the writings of Apollodorus, who chronicled the life of Hercules two thousand years ago. Tasks are approached from a mathematical modeling viewpoint, requiring varying levels of knowledge, from basic logic and geometry to differential and integral calculus. Mythematics provides helpful hints and complete solutions, and the appendixes include a brief history of the Hercules tale, a review of mathematics and equations, and a guide to the various disciplines of math used throughout the book.

An engaging combination of ancient mythology and modern mathematics, Mythematics will enlighten and delight mathematics and classics enthusiasts alike.


Hercules (or, Herakles, as he was known to Greeks) is a hero well known for his strength and ingenuity. According to The Oxford Classical Dictionary, he shared the characteristics of, on the one hand, a hero (both cultic and epic) and, on the other hand, a god. He is arguably the greatest and most famous of the classical Greek heroes. The mythology surrounding Hercules has been a part of human culture for over 2500 years. Many students get a glimpse of Hercules long before they go to high school or college. Whether it is from a civilizations history course, a literature course, or watching a Disney movie, most of us know who Hercules is and we sometimes wonder if such a hero really existed. A walk through a famous museum, such as the Louvre in Paris or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will reveal an abundance of vases, sculptures, and paintings of Hercules performing one of his famous labors. Did you ever wonder how he accomplished them?

I decided to research the Twelve Labors of Hercules to develop problems in a wide variety of mathematical settings. What jumped out at me was the notion that many of the more famous labors of Hercules could fit into my mathematics courses. I have therefore endeavored to develop problems with varying levels of mathematical skill. I also hope . . .

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