Category Archives: Puzzles and Problems

Storm Chaser Problem

This is a somewhat challenging problem from the 1997 American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME).

“A car travels due east at 2/3 miles per minute on a long, straight road. At the same time, a circular storm, whose radius is 51 miles, moves southeast at √2/2 miles per minute. At time t = 0, the center of the storm is 110 miles due north of the car. At time t = t1 minutes, the car enters the storm circle, and at time t = t2 minutes, the car leaves the storm circle. Find (t1 + t2)/2.”

See the Storm Chaser Problem

String of Beads Puzzle

This is a nifty problem from Presh Talwalkar.

“This is from a Manga called Q.E.D. I thank Sparky from the Philippines for the suggestion!

A string of beads is formed from 25 circles of the same size. The string passes through the center of each circle. The area enclosed by the string inside each circle is shaded in blue, and the remaining areas of the circles are shaded in orange. What is the value of the orange area minus the blue area? Calculate the area in terms of r, the radius of each circle.”

See the String of Beads Puzzle

After Five O’clock

This is a fairly extensive clock problem by Geoffrey Mott-Smith from 1954.

“The clock shown in the illustration has just struck five. A number of things are going to happen in this next hour, and I am curious to know the exact times.

  1. At what time will the two hands coincide?
  2. At what time will the two hands first stand at right angles to each other?
  3. At one point the hands will stand at an angle of 30 degrees, the minute hand being before the hour hand. Then the former will pass the latter and presently make an angle of 60 degrees on the other side. How much time will elapse between these two events?”

See After Five O’Clock

Language Students Puzzle

This is a slightly challenging problem from Dan Griller.

“Every pupil at the Euler Academy studies French or Spanish.  At the start of the year, one third of the French students also studied Spanish, and 2 fifths of the Spanish students also studied French.  After one term, six of the double-linguists dropped French, so that now only a quarter of the French students study Spanish.  How many pupils are at the Euler Academy?”

Just to be clear, “French students” means Euler Academy pupils studying French, and similarly for “Spanish students.”

See the Language Students Puzzle

Pythagorean Parabola Puzzle

Since the changes in Twitter (now X), I have not been able to see the posts, not being a subscriber.  But I noticed poking around that some twitter accounts were still viewable.  However, like some demented aging octogenarian they had lost track of time, that is, instead of being sorted with the most recent post first, they showed a random scattering of posts from different times.  So a current post could be right next to one several years ago.  That is what I discovered with the now defunct MathsMonday site.  I found a post from 10 May 2021 that I had not seen before, namely,

“The points A and B are on the curve y = x2 such that AOB is a right angle.  What points A and B will give the smallest possible area for the triangle AOB?”

See the Pythagorean Parabola Puzzle.

(Update 9/1/2023) Elegant Alternative Solution by Oscar Rojas
Continue reading

Floating Square Puzzle

This is another puzzle from the Maths Masters team, Burkard Polster (aka Mathologer) and Marty Ross as part of their “Summer Quizzes” offerings.

“A mysterious square has materialized in the middle of the MCG, hovering in mid-air. The heights above the ground of three of its corners are 13, 21 and 34 metres. The fourth corner is higher still. How high?”

See the Floating Square Puzzle

(Update 8/13/2023)  Alternative Solution Continue reading

Square In A Quarter Circle

Another puzzle by Presh Talwalkar.

“Thanks to John H. for the suggestion!

A square is inscribed in a quarter circle such that the outer vertices are on the arc of the quarter circle. If the quarter circle has a radius equal to 1, what is the area of the square?

I am told this was given to 7th grade students (ages 12-13), and I think it is a very challenging problem for that age group. In fact I think it is a good problem for any geometry student.”

See the Square in Quarter Circle

Escalator Puzzle

This is a problem from the 1987 American Invitational Mathematics Exam (AIME).

“Al walks down to the bottom of an escalator that is moving up and he counts 150 steps. His friend, Bob, walks up to the top of the escalator and counts 75 steps. If Al’s speed of walking (in steps per unit time) is three times Bob’s walking speed, how many steps are visible on the escalator at a given time? (Assume that this value is constant.)”

See the Escalator Puzzle

Puzzles and Problems: AIME, travel puzzles

Al the Chemist II

This is the second part of the problem from Raymond Smullyan in the “Brain Bogglers” section of the 1996 Discover magazine.

“On another occasion, Al made a mixture of water and wine. There was more water than wine—in fact, the excess of water over wine was equal to one-fourth the quantity of wine. Al then added 12 ounces of wine, at which point there was one ounce more of wine than water.

According to another version of the story, before Al added the 12 ounces of wine, he first boiled off 12 ounces of water (the net effect being that he replaced 12 ounces of water with wine), and again there was one more ounce of wine than water.

Would there be more mixture present at the end of the first version or the second?”

I found this statement a tad ambiguous with the result that I found two possible solutions: the one Smullyan gave and another, surprising one.

See Al the Chemist II

Al the Chemist I

This is a relatively simple problem from the inventive Raymond Smullyan in the “Brain Bogglers” section of the 1996 Discover magazine.

“AL THE CHEMIST—not an alchemist, though his name might suggest it­—one day partially filled a container with some concoction or other. He knew the volume of fluid in the container, as well as the volume of empty space, and real­ized that two-thirds of the former was equal to four-fifths of the latter. Was the container then less than half full, more than half full, or exactly half full?”

See Al the Chemist I