Congratulations to those of you who
deduced the correct answer to this problem.
Cameron from Boroughbridge Primary was
one of the first to send in a solution. He used a combination of
observation and trial and error to begin the problem:
If you put the red dot in the centre of a side and look at the
height chart, it goes down and then immediately up again. This also
happens on the height chart that you are trying to make. If you try
this with different shapes, a hexagon makes the right
He then considered on which side the red dot
should be placed:
Then I knew that as the highest points were at the start, the red
dot must go on the centre of the side that is 1 anti-clockwise of
the top side on a hexagon with a diameter of 45!
Robert from Cowbridge Comprehensive sent in a
solution with slightly different reasoning:
I already knew that the radius was 45. The height graph had
six distinct curves before it repeated, so the shape had to have
The height did reach zero, but it did not stay at zero,
meaning that the dot could not be on a corner, but had to be in the
middle of a side.
The height graph had four of the curves before hitting zero,
so the dot had to be on the fourth side to touch the ground.
Therefore the shape was a hexagon, of radius 45, with the dot
in the middle of the upper left side.
Thank you to Ken Nisbet, the class teacher
of 4YP at Madras College in St Andrews, Scotland, for sending us
this message and the very impressive work carried out by some of
Hi to 'The Nrich Team'
My 'top' S4 set were this month inspired by your various
'Rolling Polygon' problems.
We decided to investigate the total distance travelled by the
dot, when it was placed at one of the vertices, from 'take-off' to
'landing' when each polygon had side length 1 unit.
The class divided into groups of 2 or 3 students. Exact values
were the order of the day. The Equilateral triangle and Square were
fine though much discussion was needed regarding the final form of
the answers. The pentagon proved a lot more challenging with the
Golden ratio eventually surfacing.
The overall pattern in the answers were quite remarkable with
a very curious sequence emerging:
1, 2, 5, 12,...
The groups spent over a week working on this investigation
with excitement mounting as the sequence developed. Predictions
were made at the stage when the hexagon revealed the number 12 as
the 4th term. For the Septagon exact values were not possible so
conjectures for the 5th term of the sequence were tested using very
accurate calculator work (Sine Rule & Cosine Rule etc).
What was a complete surprise was that a non-integral value for
the 5th term emerged. There are not many situations, at this level
of work, where approximate values can be harnessed to disprove an
integer sequence conjecture. "This must be wrong" was the general
feeling and all the sums were checked again and again... but
eventually calculations by three separate independent groups
confirmed the result.
I feel that the challenge and sheer range of technique
required for this investigation has benefited my students
immensely. They are aged 14 to 15 and produced work of impressive
depth and quality. Thanks for the stimulation that your questions
have provided ... keep up the great work. I have attached
the write-up produced by David, Nicholas
and Robert as it was a superb exposition.... I'm sure you will
agree! All the best Ken Nisbet
We do agree! Many thanks.