Puzzles

“Order of Operations” Puzzles

We have often received questions about things called “Order of Operations problems”, or some similar name. Generally, what that means is simply that they are puzzles to give lots of practice evaluating expressions using the order of operations. I have collected a few quite different puzzles in this broad category. A free-form expression We’ll start …

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The 24 Game and Kin

We are looking at various mathematical puzzles and games, with a focus on discussing rules and strategies, and then letting you play. Last time we discussed Four Fours, in which we are given a fixed set of “inputs” to a calculation (usually 4, 4, 4, 4), and want to find expressions that yield as many …

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Four Fours and Friends

This has been a good time for doing puzzles to stay busy (as a family, or a class, or as distanced friends, for instance). The next few posts will present various mathematical puzzles and games you might enjoy. Although often when a problem I quote was originally left unsolved, I have filled in the gap …

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The Locker Problem

A classic problem we’ve seen hundreds of times involves students opening and closing lockers. I have often told people that, believe it or not, they could find the answer by searching the Ask Dr. Math site for the word “locker”. But I prefer to give them a reference to one of the answers in which …

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Perimeter Magic Polygons

Last time we looked at the classic puzzle of magic squares. Many questions we get are about similar kinds of puzzles, and here I want to look at “magic polygons” (triangles, squares, pentagons) in which, unlike the traditional magic squares, only the edges count. These are a common subject of elementary-level questions. Four sides: corners …

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Magic Squares: Logical Thinking

I’m looking at various common puzzles, and ways to think about them logically. Today, we’ll examine basic magic squares: not the standardized methods you can look up, but how a kid can work them out when seeing them for the first time. Often they are not even told they have a name, so there is …

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