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Broad Topics > Using, Applying and Reasoning about Mathematics > Mathematical reasoning & proof

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The Pillar of Chios

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Semicircles are drawn on the sides of a rectangle ABCD. A circle passing through points ABCD carves out four crescent-shaped regions. Prove that the sum of the areas of the four crescents is equal to. . . .

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Fitting In

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

The largest square which fits into a circle is ABCD and EFGH is a square with G and H on the line CD and E and F on the circumference of the circle. Show that AB = 5EF. Similarly the largest. . . .

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Janine's Conjecture

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Janine noticed, while studying some cube numbers, that if you take three consecutive whole numbers and multiply them together and then add the middle number of the three, you get the middle number. . . .

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Always the Same

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Arrange the numbers 1 to 16 into a 4 by 4 array. Choose a number. Cross out the numbers on the same row and column. Repeat this process. Add up you four numbers. Why do they always add up to 34?

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Pythagoras Proofs

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Can you make sense of these three proofs of Pythagoras' Theorem?

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Pythagorean Triples I

Stage: 3 and 4

The first of two articles on Pythagorean Triples which asks how many right angled triangles can you find with the lengths of each side exactly a whole number measurement. Try it!

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Always Perfect

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Show that if you add 1 to the product of four consecutive numbers the answer is ALWAYS a perfect square.

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Appearing Square

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Make an eight by eight square, the layout is the same as a chessboard. You can print out and use the square below. What is the area of the square? Divide the square in the way shown by the red dashed. . . .

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Mindreader

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

A little bit of algebra explains this 'magic'. Ask a friend to pick 3 consecutive numbers and to tell you a multiple of 3. Then ask them to add the four numbers and multiply by 67, and to tell you. . . .

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Lens Angle

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Find the missing angle between the two secants to the circle when the two angles at the centre subtended by the arcs created by the intersections of the secants and the circle are 50 and 120 degrees.

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Common Divisor

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Find the largest integer which divides every member of the following sequence: 1^5-1, 2^5-2, 3^5-3, ... n^5-n.

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AMGM

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Can you use the diagram to prove the AM-GM inequality?

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Folding Fractions

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

What fractions can you divide the diagonal of a square into by simple folding?

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Salinon

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

This shape comprises four semi-circles. What is the relationship between the area of the shaded region and the area of the circle on AB as diameter?

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Folding Squares

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

The diagonal of a square intersects the line joining one of the unused corners to the midpoint of the opposite side. What do you notice about the line segments produced?

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Picturing Pythagorean Triples

Stage: 4 and 5

This article discusses how every Pythagorean triple (a, b, c) can be illustrated by a square and an L shape within another square. You are invited to find some triples for yourself.

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Mediant

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

If you take two tests and get a marks out of a maximum b in the first and c marks out of d in the second, does the mediant (a+c)/(b+d)lie between the results for the two tests separately.

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Zig Zag

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Four identical right angled triangles are drawn on the sides of a square. Two face out, two face in. Why do the four vertices marked with dots lie on one line?

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Why 24?

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Take any prime number greater than 3 , square it and subtract one. Working on the building blocks will help you to explain what is special about your results.

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Circle Box

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

It is obvious that we can fit four circles of diameter 1 unit in a square of side 2 without overlapping. What is the smallest square into which we can fit 3 circles of diameter 1 unit?

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Unit Interval

Stage: 4 and 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Take any two numbers between 0 and 1. Prove that the sum of the numbers is always less than one plus their product?

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Perfectly Square

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

The sums of the squares of three related numbers is also a perfect square - can you explain why?

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Areas and Ratios

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

What is the area of the quadrilateral APOQ? Working on the building blocks will give you some insights that may help you to work it out.

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Rotating Triangle

Stage: 3 and 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

What happens to the perimeter of triangle ABC as the two smaller circles change size and roll around inside the bigger circle?

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Pythagorean Triples II

Stage: 3 and 4

This is the second article on right-angled triangles whose edge lengths are whole numbers.

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Go Forth and Generalise

Stage: 3

Spotting patterns can be an important first step - explaining why it is appropriate to generalise is the next step, and often the most interesting and important.

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A Chordingly

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Find the area of the annulus in terms of the length of the chord which is tangent to the inner circle.

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Leonardo's Problem

Stage: 4 and 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

A, B & C own a half, a third and a sixth of a coin collection. Each grab some coins, return some, then share equally what they had put back, finishing with their own share. How rich are they?

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Matter of Scale

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Prove Pythagoras' Theorem using enlargements and scale factors.

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Coins on a Plate

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Points A, B and C are the centres of three circles, each one of which touches the other two. Prove that the perimeter of the triangle ABC is equal to the diameter of the largest circle.

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Multiplication Square

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Pick a square within a multiplication square and add the numbers on each diagonal. What do you notice?

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Round and Round

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Prove that the shaded area of the semicircle is equal to the area of the inner circle.

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Ratty

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

If you know the sizes of the angles marked with coloured dots in this diagram which angles can you find by calculation?

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Take Three from Five

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Caroline and James pick sets of five numbers. Charlie chooses three of them that add together to make a multiple of three. Can they stop him?

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Seven Squares - Group-worthy Task

Stage: 3 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Choose a couple of the sequences. Try to picture how to make the next, and the next, and the next... Can you describe your reasoning?

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Angle Trisection

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

It is impossible to trisect an angle using only ruler and compasses but it can be done using a carpenter's square.

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Postage

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

The country Sixtania prints postage stamps with only three values 6 lucres, 10 lucres and 15 lucres (where the currency is in lucres).Which values cannot be made up with combinations of these postage. . . .

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DOTS Division

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Take any pair of two digit numbers x=ab and y=cd where, without loss of generality, ab > cd . Form two 4 digit numbers r=abcd and s=cdab and calculate: {r^2 - s^2} /{x^2 - y^2}.

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Gift of Gems

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Four jewellers share their stock. Can you work out the relative values of their gems?

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Natural Sum

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

The picture illustrates the sum 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = (4 x 5)/2. Prove the general formula for the sum of the first n natural numbers and the formula for the sum of the cubes of the first n natural. . . .

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Picture Story

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Can you see how this picture illustrates the formula for the sum of the first six cube numbers?

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Cosines Rule

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3 Challenge Level:3

Three points A, B and C lie in this order on a line, and P is any point in the plane. Use the Cosine Rule to prove the following statement.

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Square Mean

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Is the mean of the squares of two numbers greater than, or less than, the square of their means?

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A Biggy

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Find the smallest positive integer N such that N/2 is a perfect cube, N/3 is a perfect fifth power and N/5 is a perfect seventh power.

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Long Short

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

What can you say about the lengths of the sides of a quadrilateral whose vertices are on a unit circle?

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There's a Limit

Stage: 4 and 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Explore the continued fraction: 2+3/(2+3/(2+3/2+...)) What do you notice when successive terms are taken? What happens to the terms if the fraction goes on indefinitely?

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Sixational

Stage: 4 and 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

The nth term of a sequence is given by the formula n^3 + 11n . Find the first four terms of the sequence given by this formula and the first term of the sequence which is bigger than one million. . . .

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Yih or Luk Tsut K'i or Three Men's Morris

Stage: 3, 4 and 5 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:1

Some puzzles requiring no knowledge of knot theory, just a careful inspection of the patterns. A glimpse of the classification of knots and a little about prime knots, crossing numbers and. . . .

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Rhombus in Rectangle

Stage: 4 Challenge Level: Challenge Level:2 Challenge Level:2

Take any rectangle ABCD such that AB > BC. The point P is on AB and Q is on CD. Show that there is exactly one position of P and Q such that APCQ is a rhombus.

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Paradoxes

Stage: 2 and 3

A paradox is a statement that seems to be both untrue and true at the same time. This article looks at a few examples and challenges you to investigate them for yourself.