Star Sum of Angles

This problem posted by Presh Talwalkar offers a variety of solutions, but I didn’t quite see my favorite approach for such problems. So I thought I would add it to the mix.

“Thanks to Nikhil Patro from India for suggesting this! What is the sum of the corner angles in a regular 5-sided star? What is a + b + c + d + e = ? Here’s a bonus problem: if the star is not regular, what is a + b + c + d + e = ?”

See Star Sum of Angles

More Pool

This is another UKMT Senior Challenge problem, this time from 2006.

“A toy pool table is 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. It has pockets at each of the four corners P, Q, R, and S. When a ball hits a side of the table, it bounces off the side at the same angle as it hit that side. A ball, initially 1 foot to the left of pocket P, is hit from the side SP towards the side PQ as shown. How many feet from P does the ball hit side PQ if it lands in pocket S after two bounces?”

Pool Partiers should have no difficulty solving this. See More Pool.

Square Wheels

I came across the following problem from an Italian high school exam on the British Aperiodical website presented by Adam Atkinson:

“There have been various stories in the Italian press and discussion on a Physics teaching mailing list I’m accidentally on about a question in the maths exam for science high schools in Italy last week. The question asks students to confirm that a given formula is the shape of the surface needed for a comfortable ride on a bike with square wheels.

What do people think? Would this be a surprising question at A-level in the UK or in the final year of high school in the US or elsewhere?”

I had seen videos of riding a square-wheeled bicycle over a corrugated surface before, but I had never inquired about the nature of the surface. So I thought it would be a good time to see if I could prove the surface (cross-section) shown would do the job. See Square Wheels.

Chalkdust Grid Problem

Normally I don’t care for combinatorial problems, but this problem from Chalkdust Magazine by Matthew Scroggs seemed to bug me enough to try to solve it. It took me a while to see the proper pattern, and then it was rather satisfying.

“You start at A and are allowed to move either to the right or upwards. How many different routes are there to get from A to B?”

See the Chalkdust Grid Problem

The Weight Problem of Bachet de Méziriac

The following is a famous problem of Bachet as recounted by Heinrich Dörrie in his book 100 Great Problems of Elementary Mathematics:

“A merchant had a forty-pound measuring weight that broke into four pieces as the result of a fall. When the pieces were subsequently weighed, it was found that the weight of each piece was a whole number of pounds and that the four pieces could be used [in a balance scale] to weigh every integral weight between 1 and 40 pounds [when we are allowed to put a weight in either of the two pans]. What were the weights of the pieces?

(This problem stems from the French mathematician Claude Gaspard Bachet de Méziriac (1581-1638), who solved it in his famous book Problèmes plaisants et délectables qui se font par les nombres, published in 1624.)”

The problem has a nice solution using ternary numbers. See the Weight Problem of Bachet.

(Update 4/10/2019) Continue reading

Right Triangle with Roots

This is an interesting problem from the United Kingdom Mathematics Trust (UKMT) Senior Math Challenge of 2008.

“The length of the hypotenuse of a particular right-angled triangle is given by √(1 + 3 + 5 + … + 23 + 25). The lengths of the other two sides are given by √(1 + 3 + 5 + … + (x – 2) + x) and √ (1 + 3 + 5 + … + (y – 2) + y) where x and y are positive integers. What is the value of x + y?”

See the Right Triangle with Roots.

Turnpike Driving

This turns out to be a fairly challenging driving problem from Longley-Cook.

“Mileage on the Thru-State Turnpike is measured from the Eastern terminal. Driver A enters the turnpike at the Centerville entrance, which is at the 65-mile marker, and drives east. After he has traveled 5 miles and is at the 60-mile marker, he overtakes a man operating a white-line painting machine who is traveling east at 5 miles per hour. At the 35-mile marker he passes his friend B, whose distinctive car he happens to spot, driving west. The time he notes is 12:20 p.m. At the 25-mile marker he passes a grass cutter traveling west at 10 miles per hour. A later learns that B overtook the grass cutter at the 21-mile marker and passed the white-line painter at the 56-mile marker. Assuming A, B, the painter and the grass cutter all travel at constant speeds, at what time did A enter the turnpike?”

See Turnpike Driving.

Hyperboloid as Ruled Surface

When our daughter-in-law made wheat shocks as center-pieces for hers and our son’s fall-themed wedding reception, I naturally could not help pointing out the age-old observation that they represented a hyperboloid of one sheet. This was naturally greeted with the usual groans, but the thought stayed with me as I realized I had never proved this mathematically to myself. And so I did.

See the Hyperboloid as Ruled Surface.

(Updates 10/9/2020, 9/19/2022) Spinning Rod Demo, Spinning Umbrella
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