Some Difficult Math Problems That You Understand

What the heck, it’s Friday, I might as well put up a little fun thing here. Over on the Maths In A Minute blog is a quartet of mathematics problems which anyone can understand on their first reading of them, but which are unsolved and which have been sitting there unsolved for generations.

There’s, realistically, no chance that you personally are going to solve them. While probably everyone has some mathematical talent, and anyone with the ability to reason is at least in principle endowed with the relevant tools, it’s not likely that you’ll find a path to solving them that hasn’t been tried and that’s failed before. But that doesn’t mean they’re not worth looking at and thinking about because you can nevertheless discover things you didn’t know before, and notice stuff about mathematics that you hadn’t realized. Even if your discovery only delights yourself, it’s still a delight to you.

(I didn’t run across this page myself, though could have; the Algebra Fact of the Day brought me to it.)

Bad Luck on Deal Or No Deal

Mathstina, in a post from August 25, put put a video from the Australian version of Deal Or No Deal which showed a spectacularly unlucky contestant, a contestant unlucky enough to inspire word problems. I quite like game shows, partly because I was a kid in an era — the late 70s and early 80s — when the American daytime game show was at a creative and commercial peak, when one could reasonably expect to see novel shows on two or three networks from 9 am until 1 or 2 pm, and partly because they give many wonderful, easy-to-understand mathematics problems. Here’s one I based on the show and used as an exam problem.

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