I was really trying to avoid getting pulled into more addictive geometric challenges from Catriona Shearer (since they can consume your every waking moment), but a recent post by Ben Orlin, “The Tilted Twin (and other delights),” undermined my intent. As Orlin put it, “This is a countdown of her three favorite puzzles from October 2019” and they are vintage Shearer. You should check out Olin’s website since there are “Mild hints in the text; full spoilers in the comments.” He also has some interesting links to other people’s efforts. (Olin did leave out a crucial part of #1, however, which caused me to think the problem under-determined. Checking Catriona Shearer’s Twitter I found the correct statement, which I have used here.)
I have to admit, I personally found the difficulty of these puzzles a bit more challenging than before (unless I am getting rusty) and the difficulty in the order Olin listed. Again, the solutions (I found) are simple but mostly tricky to discover. I solved the problems before looking at Olin’s or others’ solutions.
See the Geometric Puzzle Mayhem.
This is another problem from the Math Challenges section of the 2000 Pi in the Sky Canadian math magazine for high school students.
“Problem 4. From a point P on the circumference of a circle, a distance PT of 10 meters is laid out along the tangent. The shortest distance from T to the circle is 5 meters. A straight line is drawn through T cutting the circle at X and Y. The length of TX is 15/2 meters.
(a) Determine the radius of the circle,
(b) Determine the length of XY.”
See the Circle Tangent Chord Problem
I found this problem from the Math Challenges section of the 2002 Pi in the Sky Canadian math magazine for high school students to be truly astonishing.
“Problem 4. Inside of the square ABCD, take any point P. Prove that the perpendiculars from A on BP, from B on CP, from C on DP, and from D on AP are concurrent (i.e. they meet at one point).”
How could such a complicated arrangement produce such an amazing result? I didn’t know where to begin to try to prove it. My wandering path to discovery produced one of my most satisfying “aha!” moments.
See the Mysterious Dopplegänger Problem
Here is yet another surprising result from Colin Hughes at Maths Challenge.
It can be shown that a unique circle passes through three given points. In triangle ABC three points A’, B’, and C’ lie on the edges opposite A, B, and C respectively. Given that the circle AB’C’ intersects circle BA’C’ inside the triangle at point P, prove that circle CA’B’ will be concurrent with P.”
I have to admit it took me a while to arrive at the final version of my proof. My original approach had some complicated expressions using various angles, and then I realized I had not used one of my assumptions. Once I did, all the complications faded away and the result became clear.
See Circular Rendezvous Mystery.
This is from the UKMT Senior Challenge of 2004.
“L, M, and N are midpoints of a skeleton cube, as shown. What is the value of angle LMN?
See Cube Slice Angle Problem.
In my search for new problems I came across this one from Martin Gardner:
“A square formation of Army cadets, 50 feet on the side, is marching forward at a constant pace [see Figure]. The company mascot, a small terrier, starts at the center of the rear rank [position A in the illustration], trots forward in a straight line to the center of the front rank [position B], then trots back again in a straight line to the center of the rear. At the instant he returns to position A, the cadets have advanced exactly 50 feet. Assuming that the dog trots at a constant speed and loses no time in turning, how many feet does he travel?”
Gardner gives a follow-up problem that is virtually impossible:
“If you solve this problem, which calls for no more than a knowledge of elementary algebra, you may wish to tackle a much more difficult version proposed by the famous puzzlist Sam Loyd. Instead of moving forward and back through the marching cadets, the mascot trots with constant speed around the outside of the square, keeping as close as possible to the square at all times. (For the problem we assume that he trots along the perimeter of the square.) As before, the formation has marched 50 feet by the time the dog returns to point A. How long is the dog’s path?”
See the Marching Cadets and Dog Problem.
I was reading yet another book on the Scientific Revolution when I came across a discussion of the mathematical significance of the invention of perspective for painting in the 15th century Italian Renaissance. The main player in the saga was Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472) and his tome De Pictura (On Painting) (1435-6), which contained the first mathematical presentation of perspective. Even though mathematics was advertised, it was not at the level of trigonometry I used in my post “The Perspective Map”, but rather entailed simple Euclidean plane geometry. So the discussion was largely historical rather than mathematical. Nevertheless, I became curious to learn how much Alberti was able to discover about perspective without a lot of math. This essay is the result.
See Alberti’s Perspective Construction
(Update 7/29/2019) I got a response! Continue reading
This is problem #25 from the UKMT 2014 Senior Challenge.
“Figure 1 shows a tile in the form of a trapezium [trapezoid], where a = 83⅓°. Several copies of the tile placed together form a symmetrical pattern, part of which is shown in Figure 2. The outer border of the complete pattern is a regular ‘star polygon’. Figure 3 shows an example of a regular ‘star polygon’.
How many tiles are there in the complete pattern?
See the Star Polygon Problem.
Here is a problem from the UKMT Senior (17-18 year-old) Mathematics Challenge for 2012:
“A semicircle of radius r is drawn with centre V and diameter UW. The line UW is then extended to the point X, such that UW and WX are of equal length. An arc of the circle with centre X and radius 4r is then drawn so that the line XY is tangent to the semicircle at Z, as shown. What, in terms of r, is the area of triangle YVW?”
See the Rising Sun
This is a fun problem from Mathematical Quickies (1967).
“Prove that the sum of the vectors from the center of a regular polygon of n sides to its vertices is zero.”
See the Vector Sum Problem.