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

Telescoping Functions

Age 16 to 18

Take a complicated fraction with the product of five quartics top and bottom and reduce this to a whole number. This is a numerical example involving some clever algebra.

Common Divisor

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

Leonardo's Problem

Age 14 to 18 Challenge Level:

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?

Always Perfect

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

Sixational

Age 14 to 18 Challenge Level:

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. . . .

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Find all positive integers a and b for which the two equations: x^2-ax+b = 0 and x^2-bx+a = 0 both have positive integer solutions.

Interpolating Polynomials

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Given a set of points (x,y) with distinct x values, find a polynomial that goes through all of them, then prove some results about the existence and uniqueness of these polynomials.

Three Ways

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

If x + y = -1 find the largest value of xy by coordinate geometry, by calculus and by algebra.

Pair Squares

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

The sum of any two of the numbers 2, 34 and 47 is a perfect square. Choose three square numbers and find sets of three integers with this property. Generalise to four integers.

Number Rules - OK

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Can you convince me of each of the following: If a square number is multiplied by a square number the product is ALWAYS a square number...

Lens Angle

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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.

Polynomial Relations

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Given any two polynomials in a single variable it is always possible to eliminate the variable and obtain a formula showing the relationship between the two polynomials. Try this one.

Composite Notions

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

A composite number is one that is neither prime nor 1. Show that 10201 is composite in any base.

N000ughty Thoughts

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

How many noughts are at the end of these giant numbers?

Unit Interval

Age 14 to 18 Challenge Level:

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

Look Before You Leap

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Relate these algebraic expressions to geometrical diagrams.

AMGM

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

For What?

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Prove that if the integer n is divisible by 4 then it can be written as the difference of two squares.

Perfectly Square

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

A Biggy

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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.

Salinon

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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?

And So on - and on -and On

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Can you find the value of this function involving algebraic fractions for x=2000?

Polite Numbers

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

A polite number can be written as the sum of two or more consecutive positive integers. Find the consecutive sums giving the polite numbers 544 and 424. What characterizes impolite numbers?

Mod 3

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Prove that if a^2+b^2 is a multiple of 3 then both a and b are multiples of 3.

Janine's Conjecture

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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. . . .

Multiplication Square

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

Particularly General

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

By proving these particular identities, prove the existence of general cases.

Diverging

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Show that for natural numbers x and y if x/y > 1 then x/y>(x+1)/(y+1}>1. Hence prove that the product for i=1 to n of [(2i)/(2i-1)] tends to infinity as n tends to infinity.

Pythagoras Proofs

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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

Sums of Squares and Sums of Cubes

Age 16 to 18

An account of methods for finding whether or not a number can be written as the sum of two or more squares or as the sum of two or more cubes.

Mechanical Integration

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

To find the integral of a polynomial, evaluate it at some special points and add multiples of these values.

Never Prime

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

If a two digit number has its digits reversed and the smaller of the two numbers is subtracted from the larger, prove the difference can never be prime.

Diophantine N-tuples

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Can you explain why a sequence of operations always gives you perfect squares?

Take Three from Five

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

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?

Geometric Parabola

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Explore what happens when you draw graphs of quadratic equations with coefficients based on a geometric sequence.

Without Calculus

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Given that u>0 and v>0 find the smallest possible value of 1/u + 1/v given that u + v = 5 by different methods.

How Many Solutions?

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Find all the solutions to the this equation.

Modulus Arithmetic and a Solution to Differences

Age 16 to 18

Peter Zimmerman, a Year 13 student at Mill Hill County High School in Barnet, London wrote this account of modulus arithmetic.

Impossible Sandwiches

Age 11 to 18

In this 7-sandwich: 7 1 3 1 6 4 3 5 7 2 4 6 2 5 there are 7 numbers between the 7s, 6 between the 6s etc. The article shows which values of n can make n-sandwiches and which cannot.

Magic Squares II

Age 14 to 18

An article which gives an account of some properties of magic squares.

Picturing Pythagorean Triples

Age 14 to 18

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.

Square Pair Circles

Age 16 to 18 Challenge Level:

Investigate the number of points with integer coordinates on circles with centres at the origin for which the square of the radius is a power of 5.

Similarly So

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

ABCD is a square. P is the midpoint of AB and is joined to C. A line from D perpendicular to PC meets the line at the point Q. Prove AQ = AD.

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

Age 11 to 18 Challenge Level:

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. . . .

Age 14 to 16 Challenge Level:

Kyle and his teacher disagree about his test score - who is right?

Euler's Formula and Topology

Age 16 to 18

Here is a proof of Euler's formula in the plane and on a sphere together with projects to explore cases of the formula for a polygon with holes, for the torus and other solids with holes and the. . . .

Mouhefanggai

Age 14 to 16

Imagine two identical cylindrical pipes meeting at right angles and think about the shape of the space which belongs to both pipes. Early Chinese mathematicians call this shape the mouhefanggai.

A Computer Program to Find Magic Squares

Age 16 to 18

This follows up the 'magic Squares for Special Occasions' article which tells you you to create a 4by4 magicsquare with a special date on the top line using no negative numbers and no repeats.

Transitivity

Age 16 to 18

Suppose A always beats B and B always beats C, then would you expect A to beat C? Not always! What seems obvious is not always true. Results always need to be proved in mathematics.