Puzzles

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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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 …

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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, …

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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 …

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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 …

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