The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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How does one communicate ‘difficult’ mathematical concepts to lay readers' The question has been uppermost in the mind of many science writers. Some have suggested focussing on the people involved in creating the concepts, others have been looking for a simple-language solution to the problem. A few have been a little adventurous and have used fiction as a tool to make concepts more accessible. The purists will shake their heads disapprovingly at such efforts, but will not try their hand at a solution, leaving most ill-informed about the subject. Can mathematics be as exciting as watching a play at WestEnd' The answer appears to be in the affirmative, but where is the Shakespeare of mathematical literature'

PUZZLE 1: A gambler bet on a horse race, but the bookie wouldn’t tell him the results of the race. The bookie gave clues as to how the five horses finished ' which may have included some ties ' and wouldn’t pay the gambler off unless the latter could determine how the five horses finished, based on the following clues:

Penuche Fudge finished before Near Miss and after Whispered Promises.

Whispered Promises tied with Penuche Fudge, if and only if Happy Go Lucky did not tie with Skipper’s Gal.

Penuche Fudge finished as many places after Skipper’s Gal as Skipper’s Gal finished after Whispered Promises, if and only if Whispered Promises finished before Near Miss.

The gambler thought for a moment, then answered correctly. How did the five horses finish the race'

PUZZLE 2: Assume you are using a basic calculator, and press the numbers in the order shown, using each of the symbols +, -, x, /, once only in this sum. What is the highest whole number possible' The order: 4'1'9'8'7='

Solutions on June 13


May 16

Arka Chakraborty, Birati; Anjana Sett, Cal-6; Shreetam Subhrankar, Mayurbhanj; Vineet Bhansali and P.R. Jain, Siliguri; Rajdip and Rajasree Hazra, Kulti; Bankim Chandra Tosh, Serampore; Devasish Mukherjee, Cal-64; Shah Nowaz Hasan, Berhampore; Jayanta Datta Gupta; Arnavik Sur; Joyita Mukherjee, Ranchi; Divya Kaul, B.I.T-Mesra; Mainak Biswas, Nava Nalanda; Kanishk Kanoria, St. James School; Debjani Majumdar, Jamshedpur; K. Anand, Durgapur; Saakallya Biswas; Usha Desai, Jodhpur Park; Sreechandra Banerjee, Cal-19; Swapna Gupta, Behala ; Gaurav Konar, Cal-38; Rituparna Sen, Burdwan; Sundaresh Shrikant; Satwinder Singh, Durgapur; Abhideep Bhattacharjee, Barrackpore; Abhinandan Khan; Sandip Hazarika, Guwahati; T. Abhijeet, Jamshedpur; Manisha Mukherjee, Madhyamgram; Sudipta Roy, BIET; Subhashis Roy, MSIT-Cal; Meitreyi Panchmia; Urnav Bagchi; Vaarnan Drolia; Moinul H. Mondal; Ashwini Kr Sharma, Siliguri; Debmalya Majumdar, NIT-Nagpur; Vipul Vaid, St. Xavier's-Cal; Moumita Tripathi, IEM-Salt Lake; Dwaipayan Mukherjee, JU; Neil Sarkar-DBPC; G.V.S. Abhishek, Jamshedpur; Santosh Kr Sahai, NIT-Durgapur


The response for the May 16 puzzles was overwhelming. We have plenty of correct entries. Sreechandra Banerjee’s explanations were the best.

Solution 1: James’ first age 20; Kev’s second age 14; Stuart’s third age 17; and John’s last age 22.

Explanation: As Kev was older than the 17-year-old person, and yet not the first, he must have come second. Hence, he must be 17. Stuart was three years older than the person who stood second; so he is 17 years old. The oldest one came last and John didn’t win this time. So John was the last pesron. The rest of them follow.

Solution 2: Pile 1: 8 cubes; Pile 2: 4 cubes; Pile 3: 2 cubes; and Pile 4: 6 cubes

Explanation: 8 , 4 , 6 , 2. As 8+4+6+2 =20, and each pile contains an even number of cubes. So, the number of cubes in the second pile is half of those in the first one.

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