Mathematics Problems, Puzzles, and Challenges
All of the problems below, with the exception of #18, are of my own devising. I've tried to include problems of varying levels of difficulty and from diverse areas within mathematics. Comments are welcome.
Note: Whenever a problem calls for a numerical solution, try to give an exact answer (i.e., in terms of elementary functions, radicals, standard numerical constants, etc.), as opposed to a decimal approximation, if possible.
1. Evaluate the following expression:
2. An "algebraic number" is defined as a number that is a zero of a polynomial function with integer coefficients. Thus the square root of 2 is algebraic, since f(x) = x2-2 evaluates to 0 if the square root of 2 is substituted for x. Similarly, the cube root of 2 is algebraic, since it is a zero of f(x) = x3-2. A theorem states that the sum of algebraic numbers must be an algebraic number. According to this theorem, is algebraic. Find a polynomial function with integer coefficients that has as a zero.
3. Let s be the sum of the units digits of the nth powers of 13 consecutive positive integers, the smallest of which is k. (n must also be a positive integer.) Find the minimum value for s; the minimum value for n that yields that value for s; and the minimum value for k that gives those values for s and n.
4. Evaluate the following expression:
5. Evaluate the following expression:
6. Evaluate the following expression:
7. Skewes' Number, in its common form (using 10 as a base), equals
How many distinct factors does the square root of Skewes' Number have?
8. How many distinct (i.e., mutually non-congruent) triangles are there such that, for each triangle, both of the following are true:
xxx the side-lengths are integers in geometric progression
xxx at least one side has length 100 ?
9. How many distinct (i.e., mutually non-congruent) triangles are there such that, for each triangle, both of the following are true:
xxx the side-lengths are integers in arithmetic progression
xxx at least one side has length 100 ?
The following two problems, and some subsequent ones, require the use of standard English words for the names of the counting numbers: "one," "two," "three," and so on. Please use the American system (e.g., 106 = one million, 109 = one billion, 1012 = one trillion), not the British system. Example: 1,234,567,890,987,654,321 would be read as "one quintillion, two hundred thirty-four quadrillion, five hundred sixty-seven trillion, eight hundred ninety billion, nine hundred eighty-seven million, six hundred fifty-four thousand, three hundred twenty-one." For these problems, consider the names of only those positive integers that are between 1 and 10661, inclusive.
10. What number's name is first in alphabetical order among the perfect squares (in the specified set)?
11. What number's name is last in alphabetical order among the perfect squares (in the specified set)?
12. This one is basically a tedious exercise in silliness, but I'm including it anyway because it exhibits one of the most astonishing coincidences I've ever encountered.....
Make a list of the names of the first 100 ordinal numbers. Your list should begin with "first," "second," "third," and end with "ninety-eighth," "ninety-ninth," "one hundredth."
Next, alphabetize this list. (I told you it was tedious!) Your new list should begin with "eighteenth," "eighth," "eightieth," and end with "twenty-seventh," "twenty-sixth," "twenty-third."
Now, down the left margin of a sheet of ruled paper, write the 26 letters of the alphabet (in order), one per line.
Next to the letters, write the first 26 alphabetized number names in a column ("eighteenth" next to "A"; "eighth" next to "B"; and so on).
Then start a new column with the next 26 alphabetized number names ("fortieth" next to "A"; "forty-eighth" next to "B"; and so on).
Then start another new column with the next 26 alphabetized number names ("seventeenth" next to "A"; "seventh" next to "B"; and so on).
(There aren't enough number names remaining to make yet another complete column of 26, so don't bother.)
What number name concludes the first column?
What number name concludes the second column?
What number name concludes the third column?
13. Define n? for each positive integer n as follows:
xxxxxn? = 1+3+5+...+n, if n is odd;
xxxxxn? = 2+4+6+...+n, if n is even.
14. What are the coordinates of the incenter of a triangle whose vertices are at (3, 1), (5, 7), and (10, 3)? (Use ordinary rectangular coordinates.)
15. Solve each of the following equations for x (over the real numbers) so that the equation will be true for every integral n:
16. Begin a sequence (An) with a1 = 1; a2 = 1; a3 =1; then generate each subsequent term by taking the sum of the previous three terms (i.e., this is similar to the Fibonacci sequence except that three terms instead of two are added together). As the number of terms increases, the ratio between each term and its predecessor approaches a limit. Find this limit. I.e., find
17. A type of challenge frequently seen in mathematical puzzle compendia requires the solver to construct expressions equal to various numbers, using a "tool kit" consisting of standard math symbols and some specified small number of repetitions of a particular digit. For example, I've seen (and tried my hand at) a challenge the object of which is to construct positive integers from four 4s and the symbols for addition, subtraction (unary "negative sign" OK), multiplication, division, factorial, and square root; as well as the decimal point and parentheses (for associative inclusion only [no combinatorics!]). Exponentiation and use of place value (base 10) are also allowed. Among those symbols and operations NOT allowed: combinations and permutations, subfactorial, greatest integer function, absolute value, bar or ellipsis for repeating decimal digits, radical symbol for roots other than square roots, conversion to non-decimal bases. Examples for the first few positive integers might be:
1 = (4/4)×(4/4)
2 = (4/4)+(4/4)
3 = (4+4+4)/4 , and so on.
a) Using only those symbols and operations specified above, and only TWO 4s, how many different integers between 0 and one googol, inclusive, can you construct? (I have found 62.)
b) Using those same symbols and operations, and still only TWO 4s, how many different non-integral rational numbers between .01 and 100 can you construct? (I have found 28.)
c) Using the same set of symbols and THREE 4s, find an expression that equals (the mathematical constant) pi.
d) Using the same set of symbols and FOUR 1s, find an expression that equals one quattuordecillion.
18. This question is adapted from a problem seen on a preliminary draft of a standardized geometry test intended for high-school students. I believe it is more difficult than the original constructor intended!....
A, B, and C lie on a circle. Line AP is tangent to the circle, and AP = 6. B lies on segment CP. BC = 2. Find BP.
19. What is the arithmetic mean of the set of all (nonzero) perfect squares less than or equal to one million? What is the median of this set?
20. (REVISED!) Suppose you perform an experiment as follows: roll an ordinary fair six-sided die and record the number k that comes up. Choose a random element x from the set whose members are all those numbers that are the product of k consecutive integers. What is the probability (over the entire experiment) that x is:
a) a positive number ending in 1? (i.e., the units digit is 1)
b) a negative number ending in 1?
c) a positive number ending in 2?
d) a negative number ending in 2?
e) a positive number ending in 3?
f) a negative number ending in 3?
g) a positive number ending in 4?
h) a negative number ending in 4?
i) a positive number ending in 5?
j) a negative number ending in 5?
k) a positive number ending in 6?
l) a negative number ending in 6?
m) a positive number ending in 7?
n) a negative number ending in 7?
o) a positive number ending in 8?
p) a negative number ending in 8?
q) a positive number ending in 9?
r) a negative number ending in 9?
s) a positive number ending in 0?
t) a negative number ending in 0?
u) equal to 0?
21. Let the "degrino" be a unit of angular measure that divides a circle into 20! (20 factorial) equal parts. For how many different values of n is the following statement true?
"The degrino measure of each interior angle of a regular n-gon is an integer."
22. Find the side-lengths of the triangle of minimum perimeter such that each side-length is a perfect square, and also the triangle is:
a) (no additional restrictions)
b) isosceles but not equilateral
g) obtuse and scalene
h) acute and scalene
23. How many cubic revo-Planck lengths are there in 1 cubic una-Hubble length?
24. In establishing the countability of the set of algebraic numbers (see #2 above), the mathematician Georg Cantor used a concept known as the "height" (sometimes called "weight") of a polynomial. Let us define the height of a polynomial with integer coefficients as follows:
"The height of a polynomial with integer coefficients is defined to be
the degree of the polynomial + the sum of the absolute values of the integer coefficients - 1 ."
Example: The height of x2-3x-1 = 2+(1+3+1)-1 = 6 .
How many distinct polynomial expressions in x are there of height 10? (Rearrangement of terms does not count as distinct!)
25. A tire commercial claimed: "1 out of every 4 vehicles on the road has at least one underinflated tire." Suppose this is true. For this problem, assume each vehicle has exactly 4 tires. Assume also that underinflation is a random event whose probability is the same for all tires. What proportion of all tires (on vehicles on the road) is underinflated?
26. Suppose you are at P on the earth's surface, and your friend is at Q. Points P and Q are both in the Northern Hemisphere, and also both are in the Eastern Hemisphere. The east longitude of P is three times the north latitude of P. The north latitude of P is twice that of Q; the east longitude of Q is twice that of P. The geodesic (i.e., great-circle) distance between P and Q is 1500 miles. Assume the earth is a smooth sphere of radius 3963 miles. How would you and your friend exchange greetings in the native tongues of your respective localities?
27. How many distinct (i.e., mutually non-congruent) triangles are there such that, for each triangle, all of the following are true:
xxx the degree measure of each angle is a perfect square
xxx at least one side-length is a perfect square
xxx the perimeter is less than 1000 ?
28. Find a polynomial function f such that the tangent lines to the graph of f at (1, f(1)), (2, f(2)), (3, f(3)), and (4, f(4)) enclose a square whose area is the arithmetic mean of f(1), f(2), f(3), and f(4).
29. I finished high school in 1974 and graduate school in 1979. In honor of these dates, find the distance between the parallel lines with equations
y = x +74
y = x +79 .
30. a) How many distinct (i.e., mutually non-congruent) triangles are there such that, for each triangle, all of the following are true:
xxx the radian measures of at least two angles are integers
xxx the perimeter is a perfect square
xxx the perimeter is less than 1000 ?
......b) Of the set of triangles satisfying the conditions specified in part a), consider the one with maximum area. What is its perimeter? Its angle-measures? Its side-lengths? Its area?
31. In a right triangle of area 1, the hypotenuse is 1 unit longer than one of the legs. What is the perimeter of the triangle?
32. An equilateral triangle has area 1. A circle (in the same plane) whose center is coincident with the triangle's circumcenter intersects the triangle in such a way that all its arcs whose endpoints are consecutive points of intersection between the circle and triangle are congruent. It is neither the inscribed circle nor the circumscribed circle of the triangle. What is the radius of this circle?
33. A square has area 1. A circle (in the same plane) is concentric with the square and intersects it in such a way that all its arcs whose endpoints are consecutive points of intersection between the circle and square are congruent. It is neither the inscribed circle nor the circumscribed circle of the square. What is the radius of this circle?
34. (For this problem, "log" and "logarithm" refer to common [base-10] logarithms; "average" refers to arithmetic mean.)
I once ran a computer program to calculate the average logarithm of all 1-digit (positive) integers; of all 2-digit integers; and so forth. The calculations indicated an average log for 1-digit integers of approximately 0.61775; the average was 1.67122 for 2-digit integers, 2.67626 for 3-digit integers, and 3.67676 for 4-digit integers. I conjectured that the mantissas (the quantities after the decimal points) might be approaching a limit. Some subsequent analysis showed this to be true.
Let mn represent the average log of all n-digit integers (for positive integral n).
What is ?
35. Line L1 has the equation y = mx+1. Line L2 has the equation y = mx+2 (same m as for L1). m is a positive number such that the region within the second quadrant that is between L1 and L2 has area 1. What is the perimeter of this region?
36. Consider the function S that associates with each positive integer n the sequence containing the numbers of factors (divisors) of each of the positive integers between 1 and n, inclusive. For example, S(6) would be (1, 2, 2, 3, 2, 4). What is the smallest value of n for which S(n) has a single mode, and that mode is greater than 2?
37. a) What is the smallest positive integer that has exactly 100 distinct factors?
xxxb) What is the smallest positive integer that has more than 100 distinct factors?
38. A four-digit (base-10) integer is chosen at random. What is the probability there will be more 1s than 2s among its digits?
39. This question, like Problems 10, 11, and 12 above, involves the names in the American system for the positive integers less than 1066. (The principles of construction of these names can also be found in large dictionaries [e.g., Webster's Third New International Dictionary at the entry for "number"].) If the set of names of the first 10661 cardinal numbers (one, two, three, etc.) is alphabetized, the list will begin with "eight." But if the ordinal forms (first, second, third, etc.) are alphabetized, "eighth" will not be the first entry.
xxxa) In an alphabetical list of the names in the American system of the first 10661 ordinal integers, what name will be first?
xxxb) What position on such a list of alphabetized ordinals is occupied by "eighth"?
40. For how many integral values of n in the range 1 to 1000 (inclusive) is the following statement true?
is an integer.