This tag is for basic questions about the study of finite or countable discrete structures — specifically how to count or enumerate elements in a set (perhaps of all possibilities) or any subset. It includes questions on permutations, combinations, bijective proofs, and generating functions. ...

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157
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How many fours are needed to represent numbers up to $N$?

The goal of the four fours puzzle is to represent each natural number using four copies of the digit $4$ and common mathematical symbols. For example, $165=(\sqrt{4} + \sqrt{\sqrt{{\sqrt{4^{4!}}}}}) ...
102
votes
3answers
13k views

Why can a Venn diagram for 4+ sets not be constructed using circles?

This page gives a few examples of Venn diagrams for 4 sets. Some examples: Thinking about it for a little, it is impossible to partition the plane into the $16$ segments required for a complete ...
81
votes
1answer
2k views

Is there a characterization of groups with the property $\exists N \unlhd G : \not \exists H \leq G\: \text{ s.t. } \:H\cong G/N$?

A common mistake for beginning group theory students is the belief that a quotient of a group $G$ is necessarily isomorphic to a subgroup of $G$. Is there a characterization for groups for which this ...
70
votes
5answers
3k views

Cutting sticks puzzle

This was asked on sci.math ages ago, and never got a satisfactory answer. Given a number of sticks of integral length $ \ge n$ whose lengths add to $n(n+1)/2$. Can these always be broken (by ...
62
votes
2answers
4k views

More than 99% of groups of order less than 2000 are of order 1024?

In Algebra: Chapter 0, the author made a remark (footnote on page 82), saying that more than 99% of groups of order less than 2000 are of order 1024. Is this for real? How can one deduce this result? ...
58
votes
10answers
5k views

100 Soldiers riddle

One of my friends found this riddle. There are 100 soldiers. 85 lose a left leg, 80 lose a right leg, 75 lose a left arm, 70 lose a right arm. What is the minimum number of soldiers losing all ...
52
votes
3answers
5k views

Mathematical research of Pokémon

In competitive Pokémon-play, two players pick a team of six Pokémon out of the 718 available. These are picked independently, that is, player $A$ is unaware of player $B$'s choice of Pokémon. Some ...
52
votes
2answers
2k views

Help me put these enormous numbers in order: googol, googol-plex-bang, googol-stack and so on

Popular mathematics folklore provides some simple tools enabling us compactly to describe some truly enormous numbers. For example, the number $10^{100}$ is commonly known as a googol, and a googol ...
50
votes
2answers
6k views

Can 18 consecutive integers be separated into two groups,such that their product is equal?

Can $18$ consecutive positive integers be separated into two groups, such that their product is equal? We cannot leave out any number and neither we can take any number more than once. My work: ...
47
votes
1answer
2k views

Quadratic reciprocity via generalized Fibonacci numbers?

This is a pet idea of mine which I thought I'd share. Fix a prime $q$ congruent to $1 \bmod 4$ and define a sequence $F_n$ by $F_0 = 0, F_1 = 1$, and $\displaystyle F_{n+2} = F_{n+1} + \frac{q-1}{4} ...
47
votes
2answers
3k views

Combinatorial proof that $\sum \limits_{k=0}^n \binom{2k}{k} \binom{2n-2k}{n-k} (-1)^k = 2^n \binom{n}{n/2}$ when $n$ is even

In my answer here I prove, using generating functions, a statement equivalent to $$\sum_{k=0}^n \binom{2k}{k} \binom{2n-2k}{n-k} (-1)^k = 2^n \binom{n}{n/2}$$ when $n$ is even. (Clearly the sum is ...
45
votes
6answers
24k views

Probability that random moves in the game 2048 will win

I have recently played the game 2048, created by Gabriele Cirulli, which is fun. I suggest trying if you have not. But my brother posed this question to me about the game: If he were to write a ...
43
votes
3answers
1k views

Alice and Bob matrix problem.

Alice and Bob play the following game with an $n*n$ matrix, where $n$ is odd. Alice fills in one of the entries of the matrix with a real number. then Bob fills one. Then Alice and so on so forth ...
41
votes
4answers
3k views

Do circles divide the plane into more regions than lines?

In this post it is mentioned that $n$ straight lines can divide the plane into a maximum number of $(n^{2}+n+2)/2$ different regions. What happens if we use circles instead of lines? That is, what ...
41
votes
2answers
1k views

How do the Catalan numbers turn up here?

The Catalan numbers have a reputation for turning up everywhere, but the occurrence described below, in the analysis of an (incorrect) algorithm, is still mysterious to me, and I'm curious to find an ...
40
votes
2answers
2k views

A zero sum subset of a sum-full set

I had seen this problem a long time back and wasn't able to solve it. For some reason I was reminded of it and thought it might be interesting to the visitors here. Apparently, this problem is from a ...
39
votes
7answers
868 views

Problems regarding $\{x_n \}$ defined by $x_1=1$; $x_n$ is the smallest distinct natural number such that $x_1+…+x_n$ is divisible by $n$.

Let me denote a sequence of distinct natural numbers by $x_n$ whose terms are determined as follows: $x_1$ is $1$ and $x_2$ is the smallest distinct natural number $n$ such that $x_1+x_2$ is divisible ...
39
votes
4answers
989 views

Combinatorics Problem: Box Riddle

A huge group of people live a bizarre box based existence. Every day, everyone changes the box that they're in, and every day they share their box with exactly one person, and never share a box with ...
36
votes
2answers
637 views

Counting trails in a triangular grid

A triangular grid has $N$ vertices, labeled from 1 to $N$. Two vertices $i$ and $j$ are adjacent if and only if $|i-j|=1$ or $|i-j|=2$. See the figure below for the case $N = 7$. How many trails ...
36
votes
5answers
1k views

Solutions to $\binom{n}{5} = 2 \binom{m}{5}$

In Finite Mathematics by Lial et al. (10th ed.), problem 8.3.34 says: On National Public Radio, the Weekend Edition program posed the following probability problem: Given a certain number of ...
35
votes
2answers
2k views

Identity for convolution of central binomial coefficients

It's not difficult to show that $$(1-z^2)^{-1/2}=\sum_{n=0}^\infty \binom{2n}{n}2^{-2n}z^{2n}$$ On the other hand, we have $(1-z^2)^{-1}=\sum z^{2n}$. Squaring the first power series and comparing ...
35
votes
3answers
964 views

Putting many disks in the unit square

Consider a square of side equal to $1$. Prove that we can place inside the square a finite number of disjoint circles, with different radii of the form $1/k$ with $k$ a positive integer, such that ...
35
votes
1answer
544 views

What is that curve that appears when I use $\ln$ on Pascal's triangle?

I made a little program that generates Pascal triangles as images : I first tried it associating to each pixel a color whose intensity was proportional to the number in the Pascal triangle The ...
33
votes
5answers
2k views

The 9 Billion Names of God

TLDR; I go on a math adventure and get overwhelmed :) Some background: My maths isn't great (I can't read notation) but I'm a competent programmer and reasonable problem solver. I've done the first ...
33
votes
5answers
667 views

Closed form for $\prod_{n=1}^\infty\sqrt[2^n]{\frac{\Gamma(2^n+\frac{1}{2})}{\Gamma(2^n)}}$

Is there a closed form for the following infinite product? $$\prod_{n=1}^\infty\sqrt[2^n]{\frac{\Gamma(2^n+\frac{1}{2})}{\Gamma(2^n)}}$$
33
votes
2answers
1k views

Is there a clever solution to this elementary probability/combinatorics problem?

My friend was asked the following problem in an interview a while back, and it has a nice answer, leading me to believe that there is an equally nice solution. Suppose that there are 42 bags, ...
33
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the shortest string that contains all permutations of an alphabet?

What is the shortest string $S$ over an alphabet of size $n$, such that every permutation of the alphabet is a substring of $S$? I thought of this problem while reading a open problem on shortest ...
33
votes
4answers
792 views

Strange Patience Game

I read about this game as a kid, but my maths was never up to solving it: The score starts at zero. Take a shuffled pack of cards and keep dealing face up until you reach the first Ace, at which the ...
32
votes
4answers
4k views

Probability for the length of the longest run in $n$ Bernoulli trials

Suppose a biased coin (probability of head being $p$) was flipped $n$ times. I would like to find the probability that the length of the longest run of heads, say $\ell_n$, exceeds a given number $m$, ...
32
votes
1answer
1k views

Is War necessarily finite?

War is an cardgame played by children and drunk college students which involves no strategic choices on either side. The outcome is determined by the dealing of the cards. These are the rules. A ...
32
votes
2answers
4k views

Symmetry of bicycle-lock numbers

Suppose you have a combination bicycle lock of this sort: with $n$ dials and $k$ numbers on each dial. Let $m(n,k)$ denote the minimum number of turns that always suffice to open the lock from any ...
31
votes
16answers
4k views

Why do you add +1 in counting test questions?

Here's an example question from the SAT question of the day: On the last day of a one-week sale, customers numbered 149 through 201 were waited on. How many customers were waited on that day? ...
31
votes
5answers
2k views

What structure does the alternating group preserve?

A common way to define a group is as the group of structure-preserving transformations on some structured set. For example, the symmetric group on a set $X$ preserves no structure: or, in other ...
30
votes
6answers
12k views

How many triangles are there?

The question is how many triangles are there in the following picture? I have thought to solve it by creating a formula based on the angles of the lines starting from the bottom of each side. I ...
30
votes
3answers
444 views

Guessing a subset of $\{1,…,N\}$

I pick a random subset $S$ of $\{1,\ldots,N\}$, and you have to guess what it is. After each guess $G$, I tell you the number of elements in $G \cap S$. How many guesses do you need?
30
votes
1answer
2k views

Minesweeper - Chance of one-click win

I'd like to know if it's possible to calculate the odds of winning a game of Minesweeper (on easy difficulty) in a single click. This page documents a bug that occurs if you do so, and they calculate ...
30
votes
0answers
689 views

On the number of complete and gap-free compositions

This is a longish post about something that has been haunting me for a while about a kind of restricted composition, namely gap-free and complete compositions. First, I will define the terms that are ...
29
votes
7answers
4k views

Taking Seats on a Plane

This is a neat little problem that I was discussing today with my lab group out at lunch. Not particularly difficult but interesting implications nonetheless Imagine there are a 100 people in line to ...
29
votes
15answers
5k views

Good Book On Combinatorics

What is your recommendation for an in-depth introductory combinatoric book? A book that doesn't just tell you about the multiplication principle, but rather shows the whole logic behind the questions ...
29
votes
3answers
1k views

A combinatorial proof of $n^n(n+2)^{n+1}>(n+1)^{2n+1}$?

The statement is simply that the sequence $\left(1+\frac{1}{n}\right)^n$ is increasing. Since the numbers $n^m$ have quite natural combinatorial interpretations, it makes me wonder if a ...
29
votes
3answers
3k views

The Hexagonal Property of Pascal's Triangle

Any hexagon in Pascal's triangle, whose vertices are 6 binomial coefficients surrounding any entry, has the property that: the product of non-adjacent vertices is constant. the greatest common ...
28
votes
2answers
309 views

Information-theoretic aspects of mathematical systems?

It occured to me that when you perform division in some algebraic system, such as $\frac a b = c$ in $\mathbb R$, the division itself represents a relation of sorts between $a$ and $b$, and once you ...
28
votes
1answer
1k views

Dividing a square into equal-area rectangles

How many ways are there to tile an $n\times n$ square with exactly $n$ rectangles, each of which has integer sides and area $n$? The sequence $C(n)$ begins 1, 2, 2, 9, 2, 46, 2, 250, 37. Clearly ...
27
votes
2answers
409 views

Can a collection of points be recovered from its multiset of distances?

Consider $n$ distinct points $x_1,\dots,x_n$ on $\mathbb{R}$. Associated to these points is the multiset of all distances $d(x_i,x_j)$ between two points. Suppose one is only handed this multiset (you ...
27
votes
1answer
1k views

Six Frogs - Puzzle

I had come across a puzzle: The six educated frogs in the illustration are trained to reverse their order, so that their numbers shall read 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, with the blank square in its ...
26
votes
7answers
12k views

How many triangles

I saw this riddle today, it asks how many triangles are in this picture . I don't know how to solve this (without counting directly), though I guess it has something to do with some recurrence. ...
25
votes
10answers
5k views

How many positive integers $< 1{,}000{,}000$ contain the digit $2$?

How many positive integers less than $1{,}000{,}000$ have the digit $2$ in them? I could determine it by summing it in terms of the number of decimal places, i.e. between $999{,}999$ and ...
25
votes
5answers
607 views

Is it possible to put $+$ or $-$ signs in such a way that $\pm 1 \pm 2 \pm \cdots \pm 100 = 101$?

I'm reading a book about combinatorics. Even though the book is about combinatorics there is a problem in the book that I can think of no solutions to it except by using number theory. Problem: Is it ...
25
votes
2answers
3k views

How do I count the subsets of a set whose number of elements is divisible by 3? 4?

Let $S$ be a set of size $n$. There is an easy way to count the number of subsets with an even number of elements. Algebraically, it comes from the fact that $\displaystyle \sum_{k=0}^{n} {n ...
25
votes
1answer
920 views

Expiring coupon collector's problem

The well-studied coupon collector's problem asks, given $N$ different coupons from which coupons are being drawn with equal probability and with replacement: How many coupons do you expect to need ...