# Moving Up

Here is a simple problem from an old Futility Closet posting.

“My wife and I walk up an ascending escalator. I climb 20 steps and reach the top in 60 seconds. My wife climbs 16 steps and reaches the top in 72 seconds. If the escalator broke tomorrow, how many steps would we have to climb?”

See Moving Up for solutions.

# Catching the Thief

This typical problem from the prolific H. E. Dudeney may be a bit tricky at first.

“104.—CATCHING THE THIEF.

“Now, constable,” said the defendant’s counsel in cross-examination,” you say that the prisoner was exactly twenty-seven steps ahead of you when you started to run after him?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you swear that he takes eight steps to your five?”

“That is so.”

“Then I ask you, constable, as an intelligent man, to explain how you ever caught him, if that is the case?”

“Well, you see, I have got a longer stride. In fact, two of my steps are equal in length to five of the prisoner’s. If you work it out, you will find that the number of steps I required would bring me exactly to the spot where I captured him.”

Here the foreman of the jury asked for a few minutes to figure out the number of steps the constable must have taken. Can you also say how many steps the officer needed to catch the thief?”

See Catching the Thief for solutions.

# Playing with Polys

Here is a fairly straight-forward problem from 500 Mathematical Challenges.

“Problem 256.  Let n be a positive integer. Show that (x – 1)2 is a factor of xn – n(x – 1) – 1.”

# Pole Leveling Puzzle

This is another thoughtful puzzle from the imaginative mind of James Tanton (with slight edits).

“Three poles of height 1183 feet, 182 feet, 637 feet stand in the ground. Pick a pole and saw off all the taller poles at that height. Plant those tops in the ground too. Repeat until no more such saw cuts can be made. Despite choices made along the way, what final result is sure to occur? [Four poles, heights a, b, c, d ft?]”

See the Pole Leveling Puzzle for a solution.

# Christmas Tree Puzzle

James Tanton has come up with another imaginative concrete problem harboring a mathematical pattern.

“60 trees in a row. Their stars are yellow, orange, blue, Y, O, B, Y, O, B, … Their pots are orange, yellow, pink, blue, O, Y, P, B, O, Y, P, B, … Their baubles are mauve, pink, yellow, blue, orange, M, P, Y, B, O, M, P, Y, B, O, … Must there be an all yellow tree? All B? One with star = O, pot = O, baubles = M?”

See the Christmas Tree Puzzle for a solution.

# Loggers Problem

Here is another delightful problem from the Sherlock Holmes puzzle book by Dr. Watson (aka Tim Dedopulos).

“In Sussex, Holmes and I ran into a pair of woodcutters named Doug and Dave. There was an air of the unreliable about them—not helped by a clearly discernable aroma of scrumpy—but they nevertheless proved extremely helpful in guiding us to a particular hilltop clearing some distance outside of the town of Arundel. A shadowy group had been counterfeiting sorceries of a positively medieval kind, and all sorts of nastiness had ensued.

The Adventure of the Black Alchemist is not one that I would feel comfortable recounting, and if my life never drags me back to Chanctonbury Ring I shall be a happy man. But there is still some instructive material here. Whilst we were ascending our hill, Doug and Dave made conversation by telling us about their trade. According to these worthies, working together they were able to saw 600 cubic feet of wood into large logs over the course of a day, or split as much as 900 cubic feet of logs into chunks of firewood.

Holmes immediately suggested that they saw as much wood in the first part of the day as they would need in order to finish splitting it at the end of the day. It naturally fell to me to calculate precisely how much wood that would be.

See the Loggers Problem for solutions.

# Rufus Puzzle

Again we have a puzzle from the Sherlock Holmes puzzle book by Dr. Watson (aka Tim Dedopulos).  This one is quite a bit more challenging, at least for me.

“When Holmes and I met with Wiggins one afternoon, he was accompanied by a rather scrappy-looking mutt, who eyed me with evident suspicion.

‘This is Rufus,’ Wiggins said. ‘He’s a friend.’

‘Charmed,’ I said.

‘He’s very energetic,’ Wiggins told us. ‘Just this morning, he and I set out for a little walk.’

At the word ‘walk’, the dog barked happily.

‘When we set out, he immediately dashed off to the end of the road, then turned round and bounded back to me. He did this four times in total, in fact. After that, he settled down to match my speed, and we walked the remaining 81 feet to the end of the road at my pace. But it seems to me that if I tell you the distance from where we started to the end of the road, which is 625 feet, and that I was walking at four miles an hour, you ought to be able to work out how fast Rufus goes when he’s running.’

‘Indeed we should,’ said Holmes, and turned to look at me expectantly.

What’s the dog’s running speed?”

See the Rufus Puzzle for solutions.

# Family Values

Here is a collection of puzzles from the great logic puzzle master Raymond Smullyan in a “Brain Bogglers” column for the 1996 Discover magazine.

1. ELDON WHITE HAS FOUR DOGS. One day he put out a bowl of dog biscuits. The eldest dog came first and ate half the biscuits plus one more. Then the next dog came and ate half of what he found plus one more. Then the next one came and ate half of what she found plus one more. Then the little one came and ate half of what she found and one more, and that finished the biscuits. How many biscuits were originally in the bowl?
2. Eldon once bought a very remarkable plant, which, on the first day, increased its height by a half, on the second day by a third, on the third day by a quarter, and so on. How many days did it take to grow to 100 times its original height?
3. In addition to four dogs, Eldon has four children. The youngest, Betty, is nine years old; then there are twin boys, Arthur and Robert; and finally there’s Laura, the eldest, whose age is equal to the combined ages of Betty and Arthur. Also, the combined ages of the twins are the same as the combined ages of the youngest and the eldest. How old is each child?
4. “How about a riddle?” asked Robert. “Very well,” said Eldon. “What is it that is larger than the universe, the dead eat it, and if the living eat it, they die?”

See Family Values  for solutions.

# Tree Trunk Puzzle

Here is another problem (slightly edited) from the Sherlock Holmes puzzle book by Dr. Watson (aka Tim Dedopulos).

“Holmes and I were walking along a sleepy lane in Hookland, making our way back to the inn at which we had secured lodgings after scouting out the estates of the supposed major, C. L. Nolan. Up ahead, a team of horses were slowly pulling a chained tree trunk along the lane. Fortunately it had been trimmed of its branches, but it was still an imposing sight.

When we’d overtaken the thing, Holmes surprised me by turning sharply on his heel and walking back along the trunk. I stopped where I was to watch him. He continued at a steady pace until he’d passed the last of it, then reversed himself once more, and walked back to me.

‘Come along, old chap,’ he said as he walked past. Shaking my head, I duly followed.

‘It took me 140 paces to walk from the back of the tree to the front, and just twenty to walk from the front to the back,’ he declared.

‘Well of course,’ I said. ‘The tree was moving, after all.’

‘Precisely,’ he said. ‘My pace is one yard in length, so how long is that tree-trunk?’

See the Tree Trunk Puzzle for solutions.

# Root Difference

This is another problem from the 2020 Math Calendar.

“Find the difference between the highest and lowest roots of

f(x) = x3 – 54x2 + 969x – 5780”

See Root Difference for a solution.