Puzzles, curiosities, brain teasers and other mathematics done "just for fun".

learn more… | top users | synonyms (2)

32
votes
7answers
4k views

Where is the flaw in this argument of a proof that 1=2? (Derivative of repeated addition)

Consider the following: $1 = 1^2$ $2 + 2 = 2^2$ $3 + 3 + 3 = 3^2$ Therefore, $\underbrace{x + x + x + \ldots + x}_{x \textrm{ times}}= x^2$ Take the derivative of lhs and rhs and we get: ...
550
votes
153answers
34k views

What was the first bit of mathematics that made you realize that math is beautiful? (For children's book)

I'm a children's book writer and illustrator, and I want to to create a book for young readers that exposes the beauty of mathematics. I recently read Paul Lockhart's essay "The Mathematician's ...
14
votes
4answers
835 views

“If $1/a + 1/b = 1 /c$ where $a, b, c$ are positive integers with no common factor, $(a + b)$ is the square of an integer”

If $1/a + 1/b = 1 /c$ where $a, b, c$ are positive integers with no common factor, $(a + b)$ is the square of an integer. I found this question in RMO 1992 paper ! Can anyone help me to prove ...
33
votes
7answers
29k 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. ...
47
votes
10answers
1k views

Fake induction proofs

Question: Can you provide an example of a claim where the base case holds but there is a subtle flaw in the inductive step that leads to a fake proof of a clearly erroneous result? [Note: Please do ...
57
votes
6answers
12k views

Logic problem: Identifying poisoned wines out of a sample, minimizing test subjects with constraints

I just got out from my Math and Logic class with my friend. During the lecture, a well-known math/logic puzzle was presented: The King has $1000$ wines, $1$ of which is poisoned. He needs to ...
53
votes
6answers
5k views

How come $32.5 = 31.5$?

Below is a visual proof (!) that $32.5 = 31.5$. How could that be?
5
votes
3answers
632 views

Horse Race question: how to find the 3 fastest horses?

There are 25 horses. You can take 5 of the horses at a time and race them. Each horse always finishes the race in the same amount of time, and there are no ties. The only information you get from each ...
27
votes
2answers
1k views

Proof of recursive formula for “fusible numbers”

The set of fusible numbers is a fantastic set of rational numbers defined by a simple rule. The story is well told here but I'll repeat the definitions. It's the formula on slide 17 that I'm trying to ...
130
votes
6answers
24k views

Deleting any digit yields a prime… is there a name for this?

My son likes his grilled cheese sandwich cut into various numbers, the number depends on his mood. His mother won't indulge his requests, but I often will. Here is the day he wanted 100: But ...
33
votes
8answers
21k views

What is the math behind the game Spot It?

I just purchased the game Spot It. As per this site, the structure of the game is as follows: Game has 55 round playing cards. Each card has eight randomly placed symbols. There are a total of 50 ...
24
votes
2answers
9k views

How to tell if a Rubik's cube is solvable

How can I determine if a certain Rubik's cube, that is in a certain state, is solveable? By "certain state" it could mean that the cube has been dismantled and put together again. And in my experience ...
3
votes
2answers
459 views

So close yet so far Finding $\int \frac {\sec x \tan x}{3x+5} dx$

Cruising the old questions I came across juantheron asking for $\int \frac {\sec x\tan x}{3x+5}\,dx$ He tried using $(3x+5)^{-1}$ for $U$ and $\sec x \tan x$ for $dv$while integrating by parts. below ...
6
votes
3answers
668 views

Using the digits $7,7,7,7,1$ and the operators $+,-,*,/$ to make a formula which equals $100$

I know the answer is $(7+7)*(7+(1/7))$ or a more ghetto answer is $177-77$. I'm not interested in the answer, more in the problem itself. What is the name of this class of problem? Is there a ...
2
votes
3answers
795 views

What is the value of this repeated square root: $\sqrt{1\sqrt{2\sqrt {3 \sqrt{4\cdots}}}}$

Find the value of $$\sqrt{1\sqrt{2\sqrt {3 \sqrt{4\sqrt{5\sqrt{6\cdots\sqrt{\infty}}}}}}}$$ What is the absolute value of the root in below question and what does it represent geometrically, I ...
126
votes
12answers
19k views

How can a piece of A4 paper be folded in exactly three equal parts?

This is something that always annoys me when putting an A4 letter in a oblong envelope: one has to estimate where to put the creases when folding the letter. I normally start from the bottom and on ...
61
votes
24answers
13k views

Blue eyes: a logic puzzle

Today I read the Blue Eyes puzzle here. I also read the solution which I find quite interesting. But there are three follow up questions which I don't know the answer to: What is the quantified ...
54
votes
2answers
17k views

Predicting Real Numbers

Here is an astounding riddle that at first seems impossible to solve. I'm certain the axiom of choice is required in any solution, and I have an outline of one possible solution, but would like to ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Fun math for young, bored kids?

For 6 months, I'll be organizing, as part as my volunteer work in an NGO, math classes with small groups (~10 students, aged 16 or 17). These classes are not compulsory, but students willing to stay ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

9 pirates have to divide 1000 coins…

A band of 9 pirates have just finished their latest conquest - looting, killing and sinking a ship. The loot amounts to 1000 gold coins. Arriving on a deserted island, they now have to split up the ...
24
votes
1answer
1k views

Rubik's Cube Not a Group?

I read online that although the 3x3x3 is a great example of a mathematical group, larger cubes aren't groups at all. How can that be true? There is obviously an identity and it is closed, so ...
14
votes
6answers
606 views

Fascinating induction problem with numerous interpretations

Problem: Suppose you begin with a pile of $n$ stones and split this pile into $n$ piles of one stone each by successively splitting a pile of stones into two smaller piles. Each time you split a pile, ...
12
votes
8answers
919 views

Approximation of $e$ using $\pi$ and $\phi$?

$$e \approx \frac{4 \phi +3 \pi-5}{4}$$ where $~\phi~$ is a Golden ratio . Is it possible to construct better approximation of $e$ using $\pi$ , $\phi$ and integers ?
3
votes
1answer
415 views

line of mathematicians guess their own hat color out of c colors

There is a common problem in which a long line of N mathematicians are each given a hat that is either red or blue. They cannot see their own hat but can see all in front of time and can hear any ...
18
votes
1answer
511 views

Choosing points in fractions of the unit interval

How long a series of points in (0,1) can be chosen such that the first two are in different halves, the first three are in different thirds, ... the first $n$ are in different $n^{\text{th}}$s? My ...
9
votes
2answers
661 views

What is the most unfair set of three nontransitive dice?

In a set nontransitive dice, each die is superior to another die, but is inferior to a third. It is similar to the game of rock-paper-scissors. Here is one example: ...
2
votes
3answers
6k views

Smallest multiple whose digits are only ones and zeros [duplicate]

I have a collection of typewritten pages that formed the basis of a third year problem solving course offered about 25 years ago at U. Waterloo. I've been slowly working through the problems and have ...
1
vote
3answers
144 views

A set of cards from which I can identify and number $n$ with $1\le n\le N$

I am working with a collection of cards. On each card is written a set of numbers $1\le n\le N$ in ascending order. When I arrange the cards in lexicographic order on the table, no two adjacent cards ...
322
votes
7answers
12k views

“The Egg:” Bizarre behavior of the roots of a family of polynomials.

In this MO post, I ran into the following family of polynomials: $$f_n(x)=\sum_{m=0}^{n}\prod_{k=0}^{m-1}\frac{x^n-x^k}{x^m-x^k}.$$ In the context of the post, $x$ was a prime number, and $f_n(x)$ ...
47
votes
26answers
5k views

Big List of Fun Math Books

To be on this list the book must satisfy the following conditions: It doesn't require an enormous amount of background material to understand. It must be a fun book, either in recreational math (or ...
164
votes
2answers
14k views

Proving you *can't* make $2011$ out of $1,2,3,4$: nice twist on the usual

An undergraduate was telling me about a puzzle he'd found: the idea was to make $2011$ out of the numbers $1, 2, 3, 4, \ldots, n$ with the following rules/constraints: the numbers must stay in order, ...
62
votes
12answers
9k views

Can the golden ratio accurately be expressed in terms of e and $\pi$

I was playing around with numbers when I noticed that $\sqrt e$ was very somewhat close to $\phi$ And so, I took it upon myself to try to find a way to express the golden ratio in terms of the ...
23
votes
11answers
2k views

Puzzles or short exercises illustrating mathematical problem solving to freshman students

At high school, the solution method to almost all mathematical exercises is to apply some technique or algorithm you have learned before. At the university, the situation is fundamentally different. ...
14
votes
3answers
720 views

How many trees in a forest?

Some time ago I met a forester. He told that there are only larches and spruces in his forest. He also said that there are exactly $10$ spruces at the distance of exactly 1 km from each larch. Next, ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the Probability that a Knight stays on chessboard after N hops?

Say a $8 \times 8$ chessboard as per picture. A position is represented here by co-ordinates $(x,y)$. A move is aslo considered as valid, where the Knight lands outside the chessboard [ For eg. ...
11
votes
1answer
291 views

Is there a real-valued function $f$ such that $f(f(x)) = -x$?

Is there a function $f\colon \mathbb{R} \to\mathbb{R} $ such that $ f(f(x)) = -x$ ?
6
votes
2answers
201 views

Prisoners Problem

We have an infinite number of prisoners enumerated $\{1, 2, \dots\}$, and on each prisoner there is a hat of either blue or red color. The $n$th prisoner sees the hats of prisoners $\{n+1, n+2, ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Cyclic sums — How do you use them?

Can someone give me an example of how cyclic sums are used? I don't really understand how they're used in problem-solving. For example, $$\sum_{a,b,c}a^2$$ Any help would be appreciated, and I'm not ...
12
votes
2answers
8k views

Expected Ratio of Coin Flips

If you flip a coin until you decide to stop and you want to maximize the ratio of heads to total flips, what is that expected ratio? Assuming that you want to maximize the ratio, meaning ...
5
votes
1answer
224 views

Existence proof of the tensor product using the Adjoint functor theorem.

Can one prove the existence of the tensor product by the adjoint functor theorem? (of, say, modules over a commutative ring) If yes, how would one check the SSC (solution set condition) for the hom ...
4
votes
1answer
735 views

Social Golfer Problem - Quintets

I wrote an article on the Social Golfer Problem, which has questions like: Each day, 16 people play Munchkin in foursomes simultaneously. How many days can they play with no two people playing with ...
3
votes
2answers
510 views

What is the parity of permutation in the 15 puzzle?

You might know the 15 puzzle: $\hskip1.4in$ Concerning the solvability, Wiki says: The invariant is the parity of the permutation of all 16 squares plus the parity of the taxicab distance ...
3
votes
2answers
354 views

A less challenging trivia problem

There are 25 people sitting around a table and each person has two cards. One of the numbers 1,2,..., 25 is written on each card, and each number occurs on exactly two cards. At a signal, each person ...
2
votes
2answers
315 views

Puzzle with pirates

That one I'm pretty low on ideas of how to approach it. Five pirates of different ages have a treasure of 50 gold coins. On their ship, they decide to split the coins using this scheme: The oldest ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Sailors, monkey and coconuts

Five sailors and a monkey were shipwrecked on a deserted island, and they spent the first day gathering coconuts for food, piled them all up together and went to bed. But when they were all asleep one ...
3
votes
2answers
610 views

How to choose between an odd number of options with a fair coin

It is possible to choose between three equally desirable outcomes by tossing a fair coin as follows: Choose option 1 if the first head appears on an even toss Choose option 2 if the first tail ...
2
votes
2answers
138 views

A non-trivial, non-negative, function bounded below by its derivative with $f(0)=0$?

I did not know what to search to see if this existed elsewhere. But, I could not find it. Here's the question: Does there exist a continuously differentiable function, $f: [0,1] \rightarrow [0, ...
201
votes
4answers
13k views

The Mathematics of Tetris

I am a big fan of the oldschool games and I once noticed that there is a sort parity associated to one and only one Tetris piece, the $\color{purple}{\text{T}}$ piece. This parity is found with no ...
80
votes
5answers
4k views

What is the smallest number of $45^\circ-60^\circ-75^\circ$ triangles that a square can be divided into?

What is the smallest number of $45^\circ-60^\circ-75^\circ$ triangles that a square can be divided into? The image below is a flawed example, from http://www.mathpuzzle.com/flawed456075.gif ...
47
votes
14answers
2k views

How to entertain a crowd with mathematics? [closed]

I am a high school student who follows a university level curriculum, and recently my teacher asked me to hold a short lecture to a crowd of about 100 people (mostly parents of my classmates and such, ...