Archive for mathematical puzzle

sequence riddle

Posted in Kids, R with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2017 by xi'an

The riddle this week on The Riddler was about finding the largest sequence of integers between 1 and 100 such that each integer is only used once and always followed by a multiple or a factor. A basic R code searching at random [and programmed during a massive downpour on Skye] led to a solution of 69:

although there is no certainty this is the best p… And the solutions posted the next week showed sequences with length 77! [Interestingly, both posted solutions have a sequence starting with 87. And they seem to exploit the graph of connections between integers in a much more subtle way that my random exploration of subsequences.]

Le Monde puzzle [#1707]

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , , , on July 28, 2017 by xi'an

A geometric Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

  1. Given a pizza of diameter 20cm, what is the way to cut it by two perpendicular lines through a point distant 5cm from the centre towards maximising the surface of two opposite slices?
  2.  Using the same point as the tip of the four slices, what is the way to make four slices with equal arcs in four cuts from the tip again towards maximising the surface of two opposite slices?

For both questions, I did not bother with the maths but went itself to a discretisation of the disk, counting the proportion of points within two opposite slices and letting the inclination of these slices move from zero to π/2. Unsurprisingly, for the first question, the answer is π/4, given that there is no difference between both surfaces at angles 0 and π/2. My R code is as follows, using (5,0) as the tip:

for (i in 1:M){

The second puzzle can be solved by a similar code, except that the slice area between two lines has to be determined by a cross product:

  for (i in 1:M){

a code that shows that all cuts lead to identical surfaces for bot sets of slices. A fairly surprising result!


Le Monde puzzle [#1016]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on July 16, 2017 by xi'an

An even more straightforward Le Monde mathematical puzzle that took a few minutes to code in the train to Cambridge:

  1. Breaking {1,…,8} into two sets of four integrals, what is (or are) the division into two groups of equal size such that the sums of the squared terms from each are equal? Same question for the set {21,…,28}.
  2.  Considering the integers from 1 to 12, how many divisions into two groups of size six satisfy the above property? Same question when the two groups are of different sizes.

The first code is

while (nop){

with result

1 6 4 7

while the second set leads to the unique [drifted] solution (up to symmetries)

21 24 26 27

and the divisions for the larger set {1,…,12} is unique in the equal case, and are four in the unequal case.

easy riddle

Posted in Books, Kids, R with tags , , , , , on July 12, 2017 by xi'an

From the current Riddler, a problem that only requires a few lines of code and a few seconds of reasoning. Or not.

N households each stole the earnings from one of the (N-1) other households, one at a time. What is the probability that a given household is not burglarised? And what are the expected final earnings of each household in the list, assuming they all start with $1?

The first question is close to Feller’s enveloppe problem in that


is close to exp(-1) for N large. The second question can easily be solved by an R code like

for (v in 1:M){
 while (min(abs(vole-(1:N)))==0)
 for (t in 1:N){

which returns a pretty regular exponential-like curve, although I cannot figure the exact curve beyond the third burglary. The published solution gives the curve

{\frac{N-2}{N-1}}^{999}\times 2+{\frac{1}{N-1}}^{t-1}\times{\frac{N-1}{N}}^{N-t}\times\frac{N}{N-1}

corresponding to the probability of never being robbed (and getting on average an extra unit from the robbery) and of being robbed only before robbing someone else (with average wealth N/(N-1)).

Le Monde puzzle [#1015]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on July 10, 2017 by xi'an

A combinatoric Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

A game with N questions and N players is such that each question is solved by all players but three, while any pair of players fails to jointly solve the N questions. What is the maximal number N of players?

while ((besz>0)||(play<N)){
for (qez in 1:N) gamz[qez,sample(1:N,3)]=0
while ((play<N)&(besz==0)){

The output of that code is N=7 in that N=8 does not escape the while loop. (Since there are 3N zeros to distribute in the NxN matrix, either all columns contain 3 zeros or one contains only two, in which case it can only share zeros with 2×2=4 other columns, which makes it impossible. When a column holds three zeros, it can share zeros with 3×2=6 other columns, which brings us back to N=7 as the highest possible case.)

A second game with M>N players and questions sees each question solved by all but four players. There is at least a pair of players jointly solving all questions. What is the minimal number M of players?

Given the simple update to the above R code

for (qez in 1:N) gamz[qez,sample(1:N,5)]=0

running the R code leads to suggest N=11, as the first instance when the loop does not exit. (The above logical argument does not run so well since having four zeros per column should allow for at most 4×3=12 other columns sharing zeros with that column, which leads to 14 as an upper bound for the answer, not 11!) However, the published solution is 14, which shows the limitation of this R code…

Le Monde puzzle [#1014]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , on June 30, 2017 by xi'an

One of those Le Monde puzzles where a computational solution seems out of reach: given 2N batteries out of which N are charged, how many tests of pairs of batteries are necessary to find a working pair? I first tried a brute force recursive resolution checking all (2N-1)N orders of pairs over all (2N)! permutations of 0…01…1, but the magnitude of the exploration is such that the program failed to conclude for N=3! After realising that N+4 is an upper bound on the number of attempts (since testing all N disjoint pairs until success or exhaustion leaves 4 attempts to find the two operative batteries within a couple of tested pairs), I managed to cap the depth of the recursion into the following R code:

for (i in 1:factorial(2*N)) seqz[i,]=permz[[i]]

#remaining pairs
if (length(earl)>N+3) return(best)
for (i in 1:(2*N-1))
for (j in ((i+1):(2*N))){
if (!(prez%in%earl)){
if (min(scorzz)==1){
if (best==6) break()


which returned a solution for N=3 (6 tests are enough, testing all combinations of the first three batteries then all combinations of the last three) but is still running for N=4! (I wonder at a possible resolution by modelling this puzzle though a very special type of multi-armed bandit problem with (pairwise) aggregated outcomes, but I did not go any further in that direction.)

Le Monde puzzle [#1013]

Posted in Books, Kids with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2017 by xi'an

A purely arithmetic Le Monde mathematical puzzle:

An operation þ applies to all pairs of natural integers with the properties

0 þ (a+1) = (0 þ a)+1, (a+1) þ (b+1)=(a þ b)+1, 271 þ 287 = 77777, 2018 þ 39 = 2018×39

Find the smallest integer d>287 such that there exists c<d leading to c þ d = c x d, the smallest integer f>2017 such that 2017 þ f = 2017×40. Is there any know integer f such that f þ 2017 = 40×2017?

The major appeal in this puzzle (where no R programming seems to help!) is that the “data” does not completely defines the operation  þ ! Indeed, when a<b, it is straightforward to deduce that a þ b = (0 þ 0)+b, hence solving the first two questions by deriving (0 þ 0)=270×287 [with d=315 and f=2017×40-270×287], but the opposed quantity b þ a is not defined, apart from (2018-39) þ 0. This however brings a resolution since

(2018-39) þ 0 = 2017×39 and (2018-39+2017) þ 2017 = 2017×39+2017 = 2017×40

leading to f=2018-39+2017=3996.