Counting Kings

(A new problem of the week) Having discussed counting earlier this week, let’s take a look at a different kind of counting. The subject of combinatorics (the study of counting) arises in many guises: probability, sets, geometry. Here, we look at a relatively basic type of problem that involves the same sort of organized thinking …

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Counting Faces, Edges, and Vertices

Over the years, we have had many questions, often from young students, asking how to count the parts (faces, edges, vertices) of a polyhedron (cube, prism, pyramid, etc.). The task requires understanding of terms, visualization of three-dimensional objects, and organizing the parts for accurate counting — all important skills. How can we help with this?

Venn Diagrams: Over the Top

(An archive question of the week) Last time we looked at various 2- and 3-set Venn diagram problems (and alternative methods). One discussion I found while collecting them deserved to be set aside for special examination, if only because it would scare the beginner. A mixture of tools will make the work easier. Here it …

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Studying Math: Want a Challenge?

Many students who write to us are involved in math competitions. They don’t always say that explicitly, but we can tell when the problems they ask about may be far beyond ordinary homework, requiring deeper problem-solving skills. The three questions I’ll look at today are from students asking how to prepare for these competitions, or …

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