Puzzles

Awkward Sequence Problems

(A new question of the week) Having just discussed some pattern or sequence problems that were poorly posed, let’s look at some recent questions about sequences, some of which are quite complicated, and others seem to be just wrong. Two extreme patterns Here is the initial question from Zehra: Please make me understand how I …

Awkward Sequence Problems Read More »

Uncertain Sequences

We’ve often pointed out that pattern or sequence problems, when nothing is given but a list of numbers, are not really math, in the sense that there is no one correct answer. They are psychology questions: What would a math teacher think is an interesting sequence to ask about? Mathematically, any number could come next, …

Uncertain Sequences Read More »

Building Patterns and Sequences

In the past (last May and November), we discussed ways to find patterns or sequences in numbers, sometimes leading to a formula. This included an example where the sequence turned out not to be just a provided list of numbers, but a process that generated the numbers. I want to focus on that type of …

Building Patterns and Sequences Read More »

Venn Diagrams: Language Issues

(A new question of the week) I mentioned that we have had a number of questions related to Venn diagrams recently. Here I would like to show a couple of these, from a Philippine student. Even fluent English speakers can get confused in these problems; observing how a student new to the language misinterprets details …

Venn Diagrams: Language Issues Read More »

A Fermi Problem

(An archive problem of the week) A couple weeks ago, in discussing the value of estimates, I included one example of a (very simple) Fermi problem: one in which it is necessary to invent the data as well as the method of solution. Today, I will examine one answer in which we dug deeper into …

A Fermi Problem Read More »

Subtleties in a Logic Puzzle

(Archive Question of the Week) Logic puzzles can exercise our ability to reason carefully. Interestingly, the use of formal logic in doing so can actually get in our way, because such puzzles often have subtleties in their wording that are hard to capture in formal logic. Examining our thinking carefully can help us see wrong …

Subtleties in a Logic Puzzle Read More »