Monthly Archives: April 2012

Camel inheritance



1) How many camels?*
The sheik has died. When the Mullah read the will, he found that the sheik had left each of his five sons 1/6 of his camel herd, while his only daughter in an act of sheer discrimination inherited only 1/8th of the herd.
The mullah solved it for the kids without butchering a camel.
How many camels did the sheik have?

You can check your solution.

The puzzle above is a new one, and of course derived from the following classic:
2) 17 camels and three sons**
The sheik has passed away. When the mullah opens his will, he finds the sheik has left 1/2 of his camels to his oldest son, Achmed, 1/3 to the second son, Harim, and 1/9th to poor Bahari, the youngest. Now one of the sheiks camels had died in an accident a month ago, leaving only 17 camels to be divided.
How did the mullah divide the camels without butchering one?

This puzzle is based on a problem which according to some was first posed by Gaston Boucheny, “Curiosités et Récréations Mathématiques”. Paris, 1939. The French ed. of MRE says it is a problem of Arabic origin, while Kraitchik, Math. des Jeux, says it is a Hindu problem. The claim attributing the puzzle to 1939 seems wrong to me, as Sam Loyd and Henry Dudeney posed the problem in the Strand magazine years earlier. In fact, this puzzle was included in Henry’s puzzle book: “536 Puzzles and Curious problems” as number 172.

There is a hint.

3) The seventeen horses**
“I suppose you all know this old puzzle” said Jeffries. “A farmer left his seventeen horses to be divided among his three sons in the following proportions: one half to the eldest, one third to the second, and one ninth to the youngest. How should they be divided?”
“Yes, we all know that”, said Robinson. “But it’s impossible. The answer given is always a fallacy.”
“I suppose you mean,” Progers suggested, “the answer where one horse is borrowed, so that the division can be done without butchering a horse, the sons receive9, 6 and 2 and the extra horse is returned”.
“Exactly!” Robinson replied “And each son receives more than his share.”
“Stop!” cried Benson. “If each man receives more than his share, the total must exceed 17 horses, but 9, 6 and 2 neatly sum up to 17.”
“That indeed looks queer”, Robinson admitted, “but 17/2 is 8,5, not 9. so the oldest son receives more than his share. And it’s similar for the other sons. The thing can’t really been done”
“And that’s where you all are wrong”. Jeffries stated. “The terms of the will can exactly be carried out, without any mutilation of a horse.”
To their astonishment, he showed them how it was possible.

There is a hint.

Oh, the image at the top of this page is the coat of arms of Zurich, available under GFDL license and created by Ronald zh.

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Coffee with milk, please


Tanya Khovanova publishes an irregular but excellent blog about math problems. Of Russian descent, she often uses Russian sources, which are otherwise not very accessible in the Western world. The next problem comes from her blog, and has the Moscow 2011 mathematics olympiad as origin:

1) Coffee with milk, please***
1) Coffee and milk**
In a certain family everyone likes their coffee with milk. At breakfast everyone had a full cup of coffee. Given that Alex consumed a quarter of all consumed milk and one sixth of all coffee, how many people are there in the family?

The above problem would go into the class of problems for which you have n equations and n+1 unknowns. Here’s a classic in this category:

2) A farmer went to the market*
A farmer buys 100 animals for 100 dollars but lost his receipt. Cows are $10 each, pigs are $3 each and chicks are $.50 each. How many of each did he buy?
This puzzle is a ‘classic’, but I don’t know its source. If you do, I’d welcome this information!

When you solved both, you will notice that the solving methods of the two puzzles are totally different.

You can find hints at 126, 116 respectively.