Miscellaneous questions: Part I: tutorial practice for preRMO and RMO

Problem 1:

The sixty four squares of a chess board are filled with positive integers one on each in such a way that each integer is the average of the of the integers on the neighbouring squares. (Two squares are neighbours if they share a common edge or vertex. Thus, a square can have 8,5 or 3 neighbours depending on its position). Show that all sixty four entries are in fact equal.

Problem 2:

Let T be the set of all triples (a,b,c) of integers such that 1 \leq a < b < c \leq 6. For each triple (a,b,c) in T, take the product abc. Add all these products corresponding to all triples in I. Prove that the sum is divisible by 7.

Problem 3:

In a class of 25 students, there are 17 cyclists, 13 swimmers, and 8 weight lifters and no one in all the three. In a certain mathematics examination, 6 students got grades D or E. If the cyclists, swimmers and weight lifters all got grade B or C, determine the number of students who got grade A. Also, find the number of cyclists, who are swimmers.

Problem 4:

Five men A, B, C, D, E are wearing caps of black or white colour without each knowing the colour of his cap. It is known that a man wearing a black cap always speaks the truth while a man wearing a white cap always lies. If they make the following statements, find the colour of the cap worn by each of them:

A: I see three black and one white cap.
B: I see four white caps.
C: I see one black and three white caps.
D: I see four black caps.

Problem 5:

Let f be a bijective (one-one and onto) function from the set A=\{ 1,2,3,\ldots,n\} to itself. Show that there is a positive integer M>1 such that f^{M}(i)=f(i) for each i \in A. Note that f^{M} denotes the composite function f \circ f \circ f \ldots \circ f repeated M times.

Problem 6:

Show that there exists a convex hexagon in the plane such that:
a) all its interior angles are equal
b) its sides are 1,2,3,4,5,6 in some order.

Problem 7:

There are ten objects with total weights 20, each of the weights being a positive integer. Given that none of the weights exceed 10, prove that the ten objects can be divided into two groups that balance each other when placed on the pans of a balance.

Problem 8:

In each of the eight corners of a cube, write +1 or -1 arbitrarily. Then, on each of the six faces of the cube write the product of the numbers written at the four corners of that face. Add all the fourteen numbers so writtein down. Is it possible to arrange the numbers +1 and -1 at the corners initially so that this final sum is zero?

Problem 9:

Given the seven element set A = \{ a,b,c,d,e,f,g\} find a collection T of 3-element subsets of A such that each pair of elements from A occurs exactly in one of the subsets of T.

Try these !!

Nalin Pithwa

Concept of order in math and real world

  1. Rise and Shine algorithm: This is crazy-sounding, but quite a perfect example of the need for “order” in the real-world: when we get up in the morning, we first clean our teeth, finish all other ablutions, then go to the bathroom and first we have to remove our pyjamas/pajamas and then the shirt, and then enter the shower; we do not first enter the shower and then remove the pyjamas/shirt !! 🙂
  2. On the number line, as we go from left to right: a<x<b, that is any real number to the left of another real number is always “less than” the number to the right. (note that whereas the real numbers form an “ordered field”, the complex numbers are only “partially ordered”…we will continue this further discussion later) .
  3. Dictionary order
  4. Alphabetical order (the letters A \hspace{0.1in} B \ldots Z in English.
  5. Telephone directory order
  6. So a service like JustDial certainly uses “order” quite intensely: let us say that you want to find the telephone clinic landline number of Dr Mrs Prasad in Jayanagar 4th Block, Bengaluru : We first narrow JustDial to “Location” (Jayanagar 4th Block, Bengaluru), then narrow to “doctors/surgeons” as the case may be, and then check in alphabetic order, the name of Dr Mrs Prasad. So, we clearly see that the “concept” and “actual implementation” of order (in databases) actually speeds up so much the time to find the exact information we want.
  7. So also, in math, we have the concept of ordered pair; in Cartesian geometry, (a,b) means that the first component a \in X-axis and b \in Y-axis. This order is generalized to complex numbers in the complex plane or Argand’s diagram.
  8. There is “order” in human “relations” also: let us (x,y) represents x (as father) and y (as son). Clearly, the father is “first” and the son is “second”.
  9. So, also any “tree” has a “natural order”: seed first, then roots, then branches.


Nalin Pithwa.

Why do we need proofs? In other words, difference between a mathematician, physicist and a layman

Yes, I think it is a very nice question, which kids ask me. Why do we need proofs? Well, here is a detailed explanation (I am not mentioning the reference I use here lest it may intimidate my young enthusiastic, hard working students or readers. In other words, the explanation is not my own; I do not claim credit for this…In other words, I am just sharing what I am reading in the book…)

Here it goes:

What exactly is the difference between a mathematician, a physicist, and a layman? Let us suppose that they all start measuring the angles of hundreds of triangles of various shapes, find the sum in each case and keep a record. Suppose the layman finds that with one or two exceptions, the sum in each case comes out to be 180 degrees. He will ignore the exceptions and say “the sum of the three angles in a triangle  is 180 degrees.” A physicist will be more cautious in dealing with the exceptional cases. He will examine them more carefully. If he finds that the sum in them is somewhere between 179 degrees to 180 degrees, say, then he will attribute the deviation to experimental errors. He will then state a law: The sum of three angles of any triangle is 180 degrees. He will then watch happily as the rest of the world puts his law to test and finds that it holds good in thousands of different cases, until somebody comes up with a triangle in which the law fails miserably. The physicist now has to withdraw his law altogether or else to replace it by some other law which holds good in all cases tried. Even this new law may have to be modified at a later date. And, this will continue without end.

A mathematician will be the fussiest of all. If there is even a single exception he will refrain from saying anything. Even when millions of triangles are tried without a single exception, he will not state it as a theorem that the sum of the three angles in ANY triangle is 180 degrees. The reason is that there are infinitely many different types of triangles. To generalize from a million to infinity is as baseless to a mathematician as to generalize from one to a million. He will at the most make a conjecture and say that there is a strong evidence suggesting that the conjecture is true. But that is not the same thing as a proving a theorem. The only proof acceptable to a mathematician is the one which follows from earlier theorems by sheer logical implications (that is, statements of the form : If P, then Q). For example, such a proof follows easily from the theorem that an external angle of a triangle is the sum of the other two internal angles.

The approach taken by the layman or the physicist is known as the inductive approach whereas the mathematician’s approach is called the deductive approach. In the former, we make a few observations and generalize. In the latter, we deduce from something which is already proven. Of course, a question can be raised as to on what basis this supporting theorem is proved. The answer will be some other theorem. But then the same question can be asked about the other theorem. Eventually, a stage is reached where a certain statement cannot be proved from any other earlier proved statement(s) and must, therefore, be taken for granted to be true. Such a statement is known as an axiom or a postulate. Each branch of math has its own axioms or postulates. For examples, one of the axioms of geometry is that through two distinct points, there passes exactly one line. The whole beautiful structure of geometry is based on 5 or 6 axioms such as this one. Every theorem in plane geometry or Euclid’s Geometry can be ultimately deduced from these axioms.

PS: One of the most famous American presidents, Abraham Lincoln had read, understood and solved all of Euclid’s books (The Elements) by burning mid-night oil, night after night, to “sharpen his mental faculties”. And, of course, there is another famous story (true story) of how Albert Einstein as a very young boy got completely “addicted” to math by reading Euclid’s proof of why three medians of a triangle are concurrent…(you can Google up, of course).


Nalin Pithwa



You and your research or you and your studies for competitive math exams

You and your research ( You and your studies) : By Richard Hamming, AT and T, Bell Labs mathematician;

Axiomatic Method : A little explanation

I) Take an English-into-English dictionary (any other language will also do). Start with any word and note down any word occurring in its definition, as given in the dictionary. Take this new word and note down any word appearing in it until a vicious circle results. Prove that a vicious circle is unavoidable no matter which word one starts with , (Caution: the vicious circle may not always involve the original word).

For example, in geometry the word “point” is undefined. For example, in set theory, when we write or say : a \in A ; the element “a” ‘belongs to’ “set A” —- the word “belong to” is not defined.

So, in all branches of math or physics especially, there are such “atomic” or “undefined” terms that one starts with.

After such terms come the “axioms” — statements which are assumed to be true; that is, statements whose proof is not sought.

The following are the axioms based on which equations are solved in algebra:

  1. If to equals we add equals, we get equals.
  2. If from equals we take equals, the remainders are equal.
  3. If equals are multiplied by equals, the products are equal.
  4. If equals are divided by equals (not zero), the quotients are equal.

More later,

Nalin Pithwa.

Check your mathematical induction concepts

Discuss the following “proof” of the (false) theorem:

If n is any positive integer and S is a set containing exactly n real numbers, then all the numbers in S are equal:


Step 1:

If n=1, the result is evident.

Step 2: By the induction hypothesis the result is true when n=k; we must prove that it is correct when n=k+1. Let S be any set containing exactly k+1 real numbers and denote these real numbers by a_{1}, a_{2}, a_{3}, \ldots, a_{k}, a_{k+1}. If we omit a_{k+1} from this list, we obtain exactly k numbers a_{1}, a_{2}, \ldots, a_{k}; by induction hypothesis these numbers are all equal:

a_{1}=a_{2}= \ldots = a_{k}.

If we omit a_{1} from the list of numbers in S, we again obtain exactly k numbers a_{2}, \ldots, a_{k}, a_{k+1}; by the induction hypothesis these numbers are all equal:

a_{2}=a_{3}=\ldots = a_{k}=a_{k+1}.

It follows easily that all k+1 numbers in S are equal.


Comments, observations are welcome 🙂


Nalin Pithwa

Check your talent: are you ready for math or mathematical sciences or engineering

At the outset, let me put a little sweetener also: All I want to do is draw attention to the importance of symbolic manipulation. If you can solve this tutorial easily or with only a little bit of help, I would strongly feel that you can make a good career in math or applied math or mathematical sciences or engineering.

On the other hand, this tutorial can be useful as a “miscellaneous or logical type of problems” for the ensuing RMO 2019.

I) Let S be a set having an operation * which assigns an element a*b of S for any a,b \in S. Let us assume that the following two rules hold:

i) If a, b are any objects in S, then a*b=a

ii) If a, b are any objects in S, then a*b=b*a

Show that S can have at most one object.

II) Let S be the set of all integers. For a, b in S define * by a*b=a-b. Verify the following:

a) a*b \neq b*a unless a=b.

b) (a*b)*c \neq a*{b*c} in general. Under what conditions on a, b, c is a*(b*c)=(a*b)*c?

c) The integer 0 has the property that a*0=a for every a in S.

d) For a in S, a*a=0

III) Let S consist of two objects \square and \triangle. We define the operation * on S by subjecting \square and \triangle to the following condittions:

i) \square * \triangle=\triangle = \triangle * \square

ii) \square * \square = \square

iii) \triangle * \triangle = \square

Verify by explicit calculation that if a, b, c are any elements of S (that is, a, b and c can be any of \square or \triangle) then:

i) a*b \in S

ii) (a*b)*c = a*(b*c)

iii) a*b=b*a

iv) There is a particular a in S such that a*b=b*a=b for all b in S

v) Given b \in S, then b*b=a, where a is the particular element in (iv) above.

This will be your own self-appraisal !!


Nalin Pithwa