Questions tagged [recreational-mathematics]

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

61
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9answers
17k views

Where is the flaw in this “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: $\...
27
votes
13answers
4k views

Methods to compute $\sum_{k=1}^nk^p$ without Faulhaber's formula

As far as every question I've seen concerning "what is $\sum_{k=1}^nk^p$" is always answered with "Faulhaber's formula" and that is just about the only answer. In an attempt to make more interesting ...
73
votes
7answers
8k views

How come $32.5 = 31.5$? (The “Missing Square” puzzle.)

Below is a visual proof (!) that $32.5 = 31.5$. How could that be? (As noted in a comment and answer, this is known as the "Missing Square" puzzle.)
305
votes
8answers
31k views

The length of toilet roll

Fun with Math time. My mom gave me a roll of toilet paper to put it in the bathroom, and looking at it I immediately wondered about this: is it possible, through very simple math, to calculate (with ...
55
votes
12answers
7k views

Any smart ideas on finding the area of this shaded region?

Don't let the simplicity of this diagram fool you. I have been wondering about this for quite some time, but I can't think of an easy/smart way of finding it. Any ideas? For reference, the Area is: ...
10
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
65
votes
10answers
6k 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 ...
75
votes
9answers
20k 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 ...
18
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
43
votes
7answers
60k views

How many triangles

I saw this question 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. How ...
66
votes
7answers
64k 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 ...
32
votes
2answers
2k 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 ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

Optimal algorithm for finding the odd sphere with a balance scale

Say we have $N$ spheres indexed as $1,2,3,\dotsc, N$ such that all of them have identical weight apart from one. We have to determine which sphere has the odd weight using just a balance scale. We ...
205
votes
10answers
16k views

“Integral Milking”

I begin this post with a plea: please don't be too harsh with this post for being off topic or vague. It's a question about something I find myself doing as a mathematician, and wonder whether others ...
159
votes
6answers
26k 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 ...
85
votes
24answers
18k views

100 blue-eyed islanders puzzle: 3 questions

I read the Blue Eyes puzzle here, and the solution which I find quite interesting. My questions: What is the quantified piece of information that the Guru provides that each person did not already ...
28
votes
2answers
1k views

Did I derive a new form of the gamma function?

I wish to extend the factorial to non-integer arguments in a unique way, given the following conditions: $n!=n(n-1)!$ $1!=1$ To anyone interested in viewing the final form before reading the whole ...
15
votes
9answers
1k 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 ?
15
votes
6answers
2k 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, ...
194
votes
12answers
39k 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 ...
36
votes
2answers
19k 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 ...
14
votes
1answer
519 views

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

Is there a function $f\colon \mathbb{R} \to\mathbb{R} $ such that $ f(f(x)) = -x$ ?
78
votes
2answers
24k 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 ...
22
votes
3answers
783 views

Calculate moment of inertia of Koch snowflake

That's just a fun question. Please, be creative. Suppose having a Koch snowflake. The area inside this curve is having the total mass $M$ and the length of the first iteration is $L$ (a simple ...
26
votes
1answer
466 views

The final number after $999$ operations.

I wanted to know, let the numbers $1,\frac12,\frac13,\dots,\frac1{1000}$ be written on a blackboard. One may delete two arbitrary numbers $a$ and $b$ and write $a+b+ab$ instead. After $999$ such ...
948
votes
31answers
133k views

How long will it take Marie to saw another board into 3 pieces?

So this is supposed to be really simple, and it's taken from the following picture: Text-only: It took Marie $10$ minutes to saw a board into $2$ pieces. If she works just as fast, how long will ...
97
votes
5answers
6k 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 ...
52
votes
14answers
3k 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, ...
16
votes
1answer
33k 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 whether ...
33
votes
2answers
2k 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 that ...
22
votes
2answers
9k views

What is the most efficient numerical base system?

I remember reading somewhere that base $e$ is the most "efficient" base system because of its ratio of possible characters to number length. For example, binary is "inefficient" because each ...
15
votes
4answers
858 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, ...
14
votes
5answers
19k views

How many bananas can a camel deliver without eating them all?

This is a fun puzzle I was assigned on the first day of highschool (over a decade ago). I just dug it up randomly from under my bed and thought I'd share it with the SE community. At the time, I ...
33
votes
8answers
12k views

A lily pad doubles in area every second. After one minute, it fills the pond. How long would it take to quarter fill the pond ?

A lily pad doubles in area every second. After one minute, it fills the pond. How long would it take to quarter fill the pond? To me this seems like we can set up a fraction-like equation: $$\frac{...
18
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
657 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
0answers
159 views

A function can provide the complete set of Euler primes via a Mill's-like constant. Is it useful or just a curiosity?

The following $f(m,n)$ function provides the complete set of Euler primes (OEIS A196230): $$f(m,n)=m^2-m+[\lfloor E^{2^n} \rfloor - {\lfloor E^{2^{n-1}} \rfloor}^2 +\frac{\lvert n-(\frac{1}{2}) \...
6
votes
5answers
516 views

pandigital rational approximations to the golden ratio and the base of the natural logarithm

Steven Stadnicki suggested in a comment that I post the following as a question. The golden ration $\phi$ is given by $$\phi = \frac{1+\sqrt{5}}{2} \approx 1.618033988.$$ A rational approximation is ...
7
votes
3answers
3k views

Are there an infinite set of sets that only have one element in common with each other?

In a card game called Dobble, there are 55 cards, each containing 8 symbols. For each group of two cards, there is only one symbol in common. (The goal of the game being to spot it faster than the ...
5
votes
5answers
222 views

Why $(-2)^{2.5}$ isn't equal to $((-2)^{25})^{1/10}$?

I've tried both calculations on Wolfram Alpha and it returns different results, but I can't get a grasp of why it is like that. From my point of view, both calculations should be the same, as $2.5=25/...
4
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
3
votes
0answers
420 views

An interesting way to visualize the Mandelbrot Set. Proofs? Simplifications? Extensions?

This is a multi-part Question. Please chime in with any interesting insights in addition to Answers. I have noticed some interesting properties of Mandelbrot series that lead to a different way to ...
2
votes
3answers
16k 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
1k 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 had ...
2
votes
2answers
259 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, \...
430
votes
7answers
17k 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 $f_n(x)$ ...
226
votes
5answers
12k views

What is the maximum volume that can be contained by a sheet of paper?

I was writing some exercises about the AM-GM inequality and I got carried away by the following (pretty non-trivial, I believe) question: Q: By properly folding a common $210mm\times 297mm$ sheet ...
261
votes
4answers
29k 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 ...