Questions tagged [problem-solving]

Use this tag when you want to determine the thinking that is needed to solve a certain type of problem, as opposed to looking for a specific answer to a question.

Use this tag when you want to determine the thinking that is needed to solve a certain type of problem, as opposed to looking for a specific answer to a question.

4029 questions
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The Mathematics of Tetris

I am a big fan of the old-school games and I once noticed that there is a sort of parity associated to one and only one Tetris piece, the $\color{purple}{\text{T}}$ piece. This parity is found with no other piece in the game. Background: The Tetris…
16 answers

Optimizing response times of an ambulance corp: short-term versus average

Background: I work for an Ambulance service. We are one of the largest ambulance services in the world. We have a dispatch system that will always send the closest ambulance to any emergency call. There is a belief that this results in the fastest…
4 answers

The Hole in One Pizza

In a recent issue of Crux, at the end of the editorial (which is public), it appears the following very nice problem by Peter Liljedahl. I couldn't resist sharing it with the MSE community. Enjoy!
Robert Z
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Probability that a stick randomly broken in five places can form a tetrahedron

Edit (June. 2015) This question has been moved to MathOverflow, where a recent write-up finds a similar approximation as leonbloy's post below; see here. Randomly break a stick in five places. Question: What is the probability that the resulting…
5 answers

A multiplication algorithm found in a book by Paul Erdős: how does it work?

I am trying to understand the following problem from Erdős and Surányi's Topics in the theory of numbers (Springer), chapter 1 ("Divisibility, the Fundamental Theorem of Number Theory"): We can multiply two (positive integer) numbers together in…
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Problems that become easier in a more general form

When solving a problem, we often look at some special cases first, then try to work our way up to the general case. It would be interesting to see some counterexamples to this mental process, i.e. problems that become easier when you formulate them…
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Dividing 100% by 3 without any left

In mathematics, as far as I know, you can't divide 100% by 3 without having 0,1...% left. Imagine an apple which was cloned two times, so the other 2 are completely equal in 'quality'. The totality of the 3 apples is 100%. Now, you can divide those…
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An example of a problem which is difficult but is made easier when a diagram is drawn

I am writing a blog post related to problem solving and one of the main techniques used in problem solving is drawing a diagram. Essentially, I want to illustrate that some hard problems (for example, word problems) can be done fairly easily when…
Jeel Shah
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Laplace, Legendre, Fourier, Hankel, Mellin, Hilbert, Borel, Z...: unified treatment of transforms?

I understand "transform methods" as recipes, but beyond this they are a big mystery to me. There are two aspects of them I find bewildering. One is the sheer number of them. Is there a unified framework that includes all these transforms as…
9 answers

When to give up on a hard math problem?

I practice olympiad problems from books like Putnam and Beyond. Often I come across a problem that I simply can't solve. After $\sim30$ minutes of deep thinking it feels like I'm ramming my head into a brick wall, since I've exhausted all avenues of…
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How to debug math?

May seem strange as I'm good in programming, but I just started diving into math. ATM I'm learning combinatorics at Khan Academy, and here's an example of a question that I struggled with (that's not the question): The answer to «ways of getting…
4 answers

What is the size of each side of the square?

The diagram shows 12 small circles of radius 1 and a large circle, inside a square. Each side of the square is a tangent to the large circle and four of the small circles. Each small circle touches two other circles. What is the length of each side…
10 answers

List of problem books in undergraduate and graduate mathematics

I would like to know some good problem books in various branches of undergraduate and graduate mathematics like group theory, galois theory, commutative algebra, real analysis, complex analysis, topology etc. The books should contain solution to…
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Finding the value of $\sqrt{1+2\sqrt{2+3\sqrt{3+4\sqrt{4+5\sqrt{5+\dots}}}}}$

Is it possible to find the value of $$\sqrt{1+2\sqrt{2+3\sqrt{3+4\sqrt{4+5\sqrt{5+\dots}}}}}$$ Does it help if I set it equal to $x$? Or I mean what can I possibly…
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Examples of famous problems resolved easily

Have there been examples of seemingly long standing hard problems, answered quite easily possibly with tools existing at the time the problems were made? More modern examples would be nice. An example could be Hilbert's basis theorem. Another could…
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