Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hiatus and some holiday reading

Degree of Freedom will be on hiatus until January. In the meantime, here are links to some other sources of mathematical interest / entertainment / bewilderment: Timothy Gowers’s Mathematical Discussions page: informal introductions to and motivations of some key ideas … Continue reading

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A Russian exam problem for the winter break

This problem is taken from Tanya Khovanova’s blog. It is a problem (the last of five; I recommend all of them) from the 1976 entrance exam to the Mathematics Department of the premier USSR University, MGU (Moscow State University). It … Continue reading

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Quotation for the week: Pólya

A short piece of very sound advice this week: If there is a problem you can’t solve, then there is an easier problem you can solve: find it. George Pólya, How To Solve It (Princeton, 1945).

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Solution to the first-year puzzle

In this puzzle, we asked: suppose and . What then is ? First let us solve this by hand. Since , . So Hence it follows that But since , this means that , so if we must have or … Continue reading

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Solutions to the coin weighing problems

In an earlier post, we posed two problems to do with weighing coins. Here are the solutions…

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Quotation for the week: Swift

In the often-overlooked third part of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Gulliver finds himself on the flying island of Laputa, which is ruled by mathematicians. He isn’t altogether impressed:

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The full Monty

Monty Hall was the host of the US television game show Let’s Make a Deal. An idealized version of one of the games on the show is known as the Monty Hall Problem, and it reveals some aspects of basic … Continue reading

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