Questions tagged [recreational-mathematics]

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

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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 ...
431
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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 $f_n(x)$ ...
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 ...
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 ...
226
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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 ...
218
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6answers
9k views

Can you answer my son's fourth-grade homework question: Which numbers are prime, have digits adding to ten and have a three in the tens place?

My son Horatio (nine years old, fourth grade) came home with some fun math homework exercises today. One of his problems was the following little question: I am thinking of a number... It ...
213
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2answers
16k 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, ...
205
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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 ...
194
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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 ...
180
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6answers
14k views

What were some major mathematical breakthroughs in 2016? [closed]

As the year is slowly coming to an end, I was wondering which great advances have there been in mathematics in the past 12 months. As researchers usually work in only a limited number of fields in ...
170
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20answers
13k views

Mental Calculations

This is the famous picture "Mental Arithmetic. In the Public School of S. Rachinsky." by the Russian artist Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky. The problem presented on a blackboard requires computing the ...
159
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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 ...
152
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9answers
17k views

There are apparently $3072$ ways to draw this flower. But why?

This picture was in my friend's math book: Below the picture it says: There are $3072$ ways to draw this flower, starting from the center of the petals, without lifting the pen. I know it'...
136
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4answers
7k views

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!
114
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5answers
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Help find hard integrals that evaluate to $59$? [closed]

My father and I, on birthday cards, give mathematical equations for each others new age. This year, my father will be turning $59$. I want to try and make a definite integral that equals $59$. So ...
111
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8answers
5k views

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. ...
101
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3answers
10k views

Topology: The Board Game

Edit: I've drawn up some different rules, a map and some cards for playing an actual version of the game. They're available at my personal website with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. ...
99
votes
12answers
17k views

Logic puzzle: Which octopus is telling the truth?

King Octopus has servants with six, seven, or eight legs. The servants with seven legs always lie, but the servants with either six or eight legs always tell the truth. One day, four servants met. ...
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 ...
93
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17answers
19k views

How do you find the center of a circle with a pencil and a book?

Given a circle on a paper, and a pencil and a book. Can you find the center of the circle with the pencil and the book?
89
votes
16answers
16k 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 ...
89
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1answer
4k views

$4494410$ and friends

The number $4494410$ has the property that when converted to base $16$ it is $44944A_{16}$, then if the $A$ is expanded to $10$ in the string we get back the original number. $3883544142410_{10}=...
88
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1answer
5k views

What's the largest possible volume of a taco, and how do I make one that big?

Let $f$ be a continuous, even function over some interval $I=[-a,a]$ such that the total arc length of $f$ over $I$ is at least $2$, $f(0)=0$, and $f$ is increasing on $(0,a)$. [You might imagine ...
88
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5answers
3k views

Can someone explain these strange properties of $10, 11, 12$ and $13$?

So my 7 year old son pointed out to me something neat about the number 12: if you multiply it by itself, the result is the same as if you took 12 backwards multiplied by itself, then flipped the ...
85
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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 ...
84
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4answers
7k views

If $x$, $y$, $x+y$, and $x-y$ are prime numbers, what is their sum?

Suppose that $x$, $y$, $x−y$, and $x+y$ are all positive prime numbers. What is the sum of the four numbers? Well, I just guessed some values and I got the answer. $x=5$, $y=2$, $x-y=3$, $x+y=7$. All ...
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 ...
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 ...
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.)
66
votes
7answers
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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 ...
66
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1answer
3k views

Are there infinitely many “super-palindromes”?

Let me first explain what I call a "super-palindrome": Consider the number $99999999$. That number is obviously a palindrome. ${}{}{}{}$ The largest prime factor of $99999999$ is $137$. If you divide ...
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 ...
65
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3answers
4k views

Does multiplying all a number's roots together give a product of infinity?

This is a recreational mathematics question that I thought up, and I can't see if the answer has been addressed either. Take a positive, real number greater than 1, and multiply all its roots ...
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: $\...
61
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3answers
6k views

Optimal strategy for cutting a sausage?

You are a student, assigned to work in the cafeteria today, and it is your duty to divide the available food between all students. The food today is a sausage of 1m length, and you need to cut it into ...
61
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3answers
2k views

How likely is it not to be anyone's best friend?

A teenage acquaintance of mine lamented: Every one of my friends is better friends with somebody else. Thanks to my knowledge of mathematics I could inform her that she's not alone and $e^{-1}\...
58
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10answers
5k views

Arc length contest! Minimize the arc length of $f(x)$ when given three conditions.

Contest: Give an example of a continuous function $f$ that satisfies three conditions: $f(x) \geq 0$ on the interval $0\leq x\leq 1$; $f(0)=0$ and $f(1)=0$; the area bounded by the graph of $f$ and ...
57
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26answers
10k 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 ...
57
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0answers
7k views

“The Bachelorette Problem” (slightly adapted from Tao's Google+ account) [duplicate]

The following puzzle being very much recreational for me, I couldn't resist myself from sharing it with my fellow MSE user friends. Let's have a look at it. You are the most eligible bachelorette ...
55
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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: ...
52
votes
11answers
31k views

Can a piece of A4 paper be folded so that it's thick enough to reach the moon?

While procrastinating around the web I stumbled on a page that contained the image below, from cracked.com. I can't help but believe that this is false… Even though the article header says: ...
52
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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, ...
51
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17answers
3k views

What are some math books written in dialogue or story form, e.g., a teacher explaining to a student?

Good examples would be The Square Root of 2 by David Flannery or Math Girls by Hiroshi Yuki.
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2answers
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Xmas Maths 2015

Simplify the expression below into a seasonal greeting using commonly-used symbols in commonly-used formulas in maths and physics. Colours are purely ornamental! $$ \begin{align} \frac{ \color{green}{...
50
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4answers
3k views

How does the divisibility graphs work?

I came across this graphic method for checking divisibility by $7$. $\hskip1.5in$ Write down a number $n$. Start at the small white node at the bottom of the graph. For each digit $d$ in $...
49
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3answers
6k views

Sharing a pepperoni pizza with your worst enemy

You are about to eat a pepperoni pizza, which is sliced into eight pieces. Each pepperoni will unambiguously belong to some slice (no pepperoni is "between" slices). The caveat is that you have to ...
49
votes
3answers
950 views

What numbers can be created by $1-x^2$ and $x/2$?

Suppose I have two functions $$f(x)=1-x^2$$ $$g(x)=\frac{x}{2}$$ and the number $1$. If I am allowed to compose these functions as many times as I like and in any order, what numbers can I get to if I ...
49
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1answer
1k views

Penrose's remark on impossible figures

I'd like to think that I understand symmetry groups. I know what the elements of a symmetry group are - they are transformations that preserve an object or its relevant features - and I know what the ...
46
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3answers
2k views

Expected number of people to not get shot?

Suppose $n$ gangsters are randomly positioned in a square room such that the positions of any three gangsters do not form an isosceles triangle. At midnight, each gangster shoots the person that is ...
46
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0answers
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Mondrian Art Problem Upper Bound for defect

Divide a square of side $n$ into any number of non-congruent rectangles. If all the sides are integers, what is the smallest possible difference in area between the largest and smallest rectangles? ...