What are characteristics of the most beautiful math problems?
They are practical, give an impression that the problem cannot be solved, and finish by an unexpected (surprise) solution.
It is not about the beautiful math equations or mathematical beauty. It is mostly about recreational math, brain teasers, and thinking outside the box.
Find a short list of my favourite beautiful problems:
1. Morozkin’s problem:
Vladimir Arnold (1937-2010), one of the greatest 20th century Russian mathematicians told the following story:
“Our schoolteacher I. V. Morozkin gave us the following problem:
Two old women started at sunrise and each walked at a constant (different) velocity. One went from A to B and the other from B to A. They met at noon and, continuing with no stop, arrived respectively at B at 4 p.m. and at A at 9 p.m.
At what time was the sunrise on this day?”
2. Martin Gardner’s favorite problem
“Three sailors come across a pile of coconuts. The first sailor takes half of them plus half
a coconut. The second sailor takes half of what is left, plus half a coconut. The third sailor also takes half of what remains, plus half a coconut. Left over is exactly one coconut, which they toss to a monkey.
How many coconuts were in the original pile?”
3. Lucas problem
François Édouard Anatole Lucas (1842 – 1891) was a French mathematician.
Every day at noon, a ship leave Le Havre for New York and another ship leaves New York for Le Havre. The trip lasts 7 days and 7 nights.
How many ships will a ship leaving Le Havre today meet at sea?
4. Euler bridge problem
In a city Konigsberg, there were seven bridges.
There was a tradition to walk and cross over each of the seven bridges only once.
If a person starts and finishes at the same point, can he acomplish this task?
5. Secretary problem
An entrepreneur wants to hire the best person for a position.
He makes a decision immediately after the interview.
Once rejected, an applicant cannot be recalled.
He interviews N randomly chosen people out of 100 applicants, rejects them and records the best score S.
After that, he continues to interview others and stops when the person has a sc
ore better than S.
What number N do you recommend to the cruel man?
6. Monty Hall
A venture capitalist will invest in only one of three start-up companies: A, B, or C.
I will make a lot of money if I invest in the same company, and will lose all of my money if I choose another company.
I decide to invest in company A and I inform the venture capitalist.
He assures me that he does not invest in company C.
What company do you recommend for me to make the investment?
7. The Legend of Carthage
The Legend of Carthage: Queen Dido and her followers arrived in North Africa.
The locals told them that they could have the coastal area that an ox hide would cover.
She cut the hide into a series of thin strips, jointed them t
ogether, and formed a coastal shape.
The ox-hide enclosed area was known as Carthage.
If you had a 10 km long strip, which shape (rectangle, triangle, semi-circle, or semi-ellipse) would you choose to maximise the enclosed area?
8. Lewis Carroll’s Coaches
A coach leaves London for York and another at the same moment leaves York for London. They go at uniform rates, one faster than the other. After meeting and passing, one requires sixteen hours and the other nine hours to complete the journey. What total time does each coach require for the whole journey?
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