This blog is about Simon, a young gifted mathematician and programmer, who had to move from Amsterdam to Antwerp to be able to study at the level that fits his talent, i.e. homeschool. Visit https://simontiger.com
For over a month, Simon has been fascinated by Presh Talwalkar’s channel Mind Your Decisions. The channel is full of short videos on famous math problems, logic riddles, proofs and mental math tricks. Simon has also ordered a compilation of Talwalkar’s five most interesting books, including “The Joy of Game Theory: An Introduction to Strategic Thinking”, that we are currently very much enjoying together, and four more, that Simon is reading on his own: “40 Paradoxes in Logic, Probability, and Game Theory”, “The Irrationality Illusion: How To Make Smart Decisions And Overcome Bias”, “The Best Mental Math Tricks”, and “Multiply Numbers By Drawing Lines”.
This one became Simon’s favourite brain teaser. It sounds like it’s filled with irrelevant information, but somewhat counterintuitively, every little bit of information in this puzzle helps! Here is the puzzle: A mathematician tells a census taker he has 3 children. The product of their ages is 72 and the sum of their ages is the house number. The census taker tries to figure it out but explains he still does not know. The mathematician says, “Of course not. I forgot to tell you my oldest child loves chocolate chip cookies.” Now the census taker figures it out. What are the ages of the children?
Simon has also picked up many nifty tricks and beautiful magic squares, both from the book and from the YouTube channel.
Simon spent the morning of December 5 pondering about how to test whether a number is a triangle number. “To test if something is a triangle number: double it, ask if it’s a multiple of its own square root. If that square root has a decimal, round it down”. This was his initial hypothesis, later discarded.
Another formula he came up with was if n is even, m is a triangle number. After we got back home, he quickly wrote some code to check it:
In a game of peg solitaire, if you win you must end up on one of these 5 points! This analysis was a little more difficult than with the pyramid. Because in the pyramid, I ended up with a symmetric picture whereas with this one I ended up with an asymmetric picture. So I had to do one more step of removing all of the x’s that break the symmetry:
In an earlier post, I have mentioned that for many games he programs Simon got his inspiration from the site Maths Is Fun. Perhaps I should add that at our home, Maths Is Fun has become an endless source of fun word problems, too! The problem below has been our favourite this week:
Some of the puzzles Simon likes to recreate with paper and scissors rather than program: