# Questions tagged [problem-solving]

Use this tag when you want to determine the thinking that is needed to solve a certain type of problem, as opposed to looking for a specific answer to a question.

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### 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 ...
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### Optimizing response times of an ambulance corp: short-term versus average

Background: I work for an Ambulance service. We are one of the largest ambulance services in the world. We have a dispatch system that will always send the closest ambulance to any emergency call. ...
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### The Hole in One Pizza

In a recent issue of Crux, at the end of the editorial (which is public), it appears the following very nice problem by Peter Liljedahl. I couldn't resist sharing it with the MSE community. Enjoy!
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### Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

Edit (June. 2015) This question has been moved to MathOverflow, where a recent write-up finds a similar approximation as leonbloy's post below; see here. Randomly break a stick in five places. ...
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### A multiplication algorithm found in a book by Paul Erdős: how does it work?

I am trying to understand the following problem from Erdős and Surányi's Topics in the theory of numbers (Springer), chapter 1 ("Divisibility, the Fundamental Theorem of Number Theory"): We can ...
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### Problems that become easier in a more general form

When solving a problem, we often look at some special cases first, then try to work our way up to the general case. It would be interesting to see some counterexamples to this mental process, i.e. ...
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### An example of a problem which is difficult but is made easier when a diagram is drawn

I am writing a blog post related to problem solving and one of the main techniques used in problem solving is drawing a diagram. Essentially, I want to illustrate that some hard problems (for example, ...
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### Dividing 100% by 3 without any left

In mathematics, as far as I know, you can't divide 100% by 3 without having 0,1...% left. Imagine an apple which was cloned two times, so the other 2 are completely equal in 'quality'. The totality ...
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### Laplace, Legendre, Fourier, Hankel, Mellin, Hilbert, Borel, Z…: unified treatment of transforms?

I understand "transform methods" as recipes, but beyond this they are a big mystery to me. There are two aspects of them I find bewildering. One is the sheer number of them. Is there a unified ...
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### How to debug math?

May seem strange as I'm good in programming, but I just started diving into math. ATM I'm learning combinatorics at Khan Academy, and here's an example of a question that I struggled with (that's not ...
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### When to give up on a hard math problem?

I practice olympiad problems from books like Putnam and Beyond. Often I come across a problem that I simply can't solve. After $\sim30$ minutes of deep thinking it feels like I'm ramming my head into ...
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### Examples of famous problems resolved easily

Have there been examples of seemingly long standing hard problems, answered quite easily possibly with tools existing at the time the problems were made? More modern examples would be nice. An example ...
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### Could the sum of an even number of distinct positive odd numbers be divisible by each of the odd numbers?

Could the sum of an even number of distinct odd numbers be divisible by each of the odd numbers ? Let $k\geq 4$ be an even number. Can one find $k$ distinct positive odd numbers $x_1,\ldots,x_k$ such ...
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I would like to know some good problem books in various branches of undergraduate and graduate mathematics like group theory, galois theory, commutative algebra, real analysis, complex analysis, ...
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### “Classroom” math?

I have recently started solving some problems from some math problem solving books, and I've noticed a difficulty. When I have to solve problems on the math homework/exam, it becomes a game of "find ...
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### How to attack “if true, prove it; if not true, give a counterexample” question?

I am taking a basic analysis course. This is a general question that I often encounter in weekly homework. How should we start to attack this type of question: if the statement is true, prove it; if ...
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### How to Improve Mathematical Thinking and General Problem Solving Skills?

I'm a sophomore in university and seriously feel that I'm bad at solving mathematical and algorithmic problems (be it discrete math, calculus or just puzzles). I noticed that I'm only good at solving ...
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### Proving that $x$ is an integer, if the differences between any two of $x^{1919}$, $x^{1960}$, and $x^{2100}$ are integers

For a specific real number $x$, the difference between any two of $x^{1919}$, $x^{1960}$ , and $x^{2100}$ is always an integer. How would one prove that $x$ is an integer?
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### Examples where it is easier to prove more than less

Especially (but not only) in the case of induction proofs, it happens that a stronger claim $B$ is easier to prove than the intended claim $A$ (e.g. since the induction hypothesis gives you more ...
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### Is it possible to construct a sequence that ends in 1000000000?

Starting from the number $1$ we write down a sequence of numbers where the next number in the sequence is obtained from the previous one either by doubling it or rearranging its digits (not allowing ...
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### “Here's a cool problem”: a collection of short questions with clever solutions

This game will be familiar to many mathematicians, and it is always good fun to play. I am looking to find a list of good questions with short, when-you-see-it solutions. The kind of question one ...
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### What was Ramanujan's solution?

The wikipedia entry on Ramanujan contains the following passage: One of his remarkable capabilities was the rapid solution for problems. He was sharing a room with P. C. Mahalanobis who had a ...
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### How does one cut onions in a mathematically efficient way?

Perhaps a math degree and cooking don't go hand in hand, but hopefully they do. I have been thinking about this problem for some time when in the kitchen without making any real progress: How does ...
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### 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. ...
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### Sum of the sum of the sum of the first $n$ natural numbers

I have here another problem of mine, which I couldn't manage to solve. Given that: $$x_n = 1 + 2 + \dots + n \\ y_n = x_1 + x_2 + \dots + x_n \\ z_n = y_1 + y_2 + \dots + y_n$$ Find $z_{20}$....
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### Improving concentration and stamina when solving difficult problems.

I am trying to improve my problem solving skills by solving olympiad problems (Putnam, IMO, etc). So far, I have discovered that problem solving is somewhat like panning for gold: you think of all the ...