This Christmas themed puzzle was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme as the 375th ‘Puzzle for Today‘. You can listen to the broadcast here at 48:55.

Christmas stamps are sold with the following values 16p, 17p, 23p, 24p, 39p and 40p. You want to send a present which has a postage cost of £1.00. How many stamps do you need to buy to make the exact amount?

Send your answers to @tomrocksmaths on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or using the contact form on my website. The solution will be posted with the next puzzle.

Merry Christmas!

Very excited to announce the launch of the SJC Inspire digital magazine this week – a project I’ve been working on for the past few months in my role as Access and Outreach Associate for STEM at St John’s College, Oxford.

The first issues is ‘how to design a successful video game’ and features articles by researchers at St John’s, video interviews with students at the college, and practice puzzles set (and solved) by real Oxford tutors (myself included). I’ve highlighted some of my favourites below, but be sure to check out the full contents of the issue on the website here.

Maths in video games

My former tutorial partner, James Hyde, now works for Creative Assembly developing hit titles such as Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2. Here he explains how maths has helped him to land his dream job…

Fun and games at the circus

Try out this maths puzzle set by St John’s maths tutor Dr David Seifert. If you send your answers in to inspire@sjc.ox.ac.uk you might even win a goodie bag!

How to earn billions by giving something away for free

St John’s Economics tutor Dr Kate Doornik explains the pricing strategy behind the incredibly successful ‘Fortnite: Battle Royale’. Originally given away for free, it is expected to make over \$3 billion in sales in 2018…

Tom Rocks Maths is back on Oxide – Oxford University’s student radio station – for a second season. The old favourites return with the weekly puzzle, Funbers and Equations Stripped. Plus, the new Millennium Problems segment where I tell you everything that you need to know about the seven greatest unsolved problems in the world of maths, each worth a cool \$1 million. And not to forget the usual selection of awesome music from artists such as Rise Against, Panic at the Disco, Thirty Seconds to Mars – and for one week only – Taylor Swift. This is maths, but not as you know it…

The final episode in season 1 of Tom Rocks Maths on Oxide Radio – Oxford University’s student radio station – with very special guests Jon and Nick discussing everything from the number of stickers needed to cover the Earth, to different types of infinity, via a new name for the world’s smallest number. Plus, a mammoth quiz to end the season in style and music from Nirvana and Soundgarden. This is maths, but not as you know it…

Time for the next puzzle in the new feature from Tom Rocks Maths – check out the question below and send your answers to @tomrocksmaths on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or via the contact form on my website. The answer to the last puzzle can be found here.

You are walking through the jungle with two friends when all of a sudden you are attacked by a group of cannibals. Fortunately, they do not eat you straightaway, but instead devise a puzzle that you must solve to avoid being eaten. The setup is as follows:

• You are each tied to a pole such that you can only see forwards. The poles are placed in a line such that the person at the back can see the two people in front of them, the person in the middle can see one person in front of them, and the person at the front cannot see anyone else. See diagram below.

• The cannibals produce five hats: 3 are black and 2 are white. You are all then blindfolded and a hat is placed on each persons head at random. The other two hats are hidden.
• The blindfolds are removed and you are told that you will be set free provided that one of the group can correctly guess the colour of the hat that they are wearing. An incorrect guess will cause you all to be eaten.
• The person at the back says that they do not know the colour of their hat. The person in the middle says that they also do not now the colour of their hat. Finally, the person at the front says that they DO know the colour of their hat.

The questions is: what colour hat is the person at the front wearing and how did they know the answer?

The answer will be posted in a few weeks along with the next puzzle – good luck!

The fifth puzzle in the new feature from Tom Rocks Maths – check out the question below and send your answers to @tomrocksmaths on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or via the contact form on my website. The answer to the last puzzle can be found here.

You are responsible for driving an important person across the desert, but the cars that you have been given can only hold enough petrol to cover half of the distance. Being a desert, there are of course no petrol stations along the way. However, you have access to as many cars as you need and can transfer petrol between them.

What is the minimum number of cars that you will need and how can you complete the journey?

WARNING: answer below so scroll slowly to avoid revealing it accidentally.

The minimum number of cars required is 4. The journey can be split up as follows.

• All four cars travel 1/4 of the distance across the desert, each using up one half of a tank.
• Two of the cars are then emptied leaving two cars remaining, each with a full tank.
• The two cars travel a further 1/4 of the distance, reaching half-way across the desert, each with one half of a tank remaining.
• One car is then emptied, leaving one car remaining with a full tank.
• The final car drives the remaining half of the distance across the desert using the full tank.

BONUS

How many cars do you need if a full tank of petrol allows each car to travel 1/3 of the distance across the desert? What about if a full tank only reaches 1/4 of the way across? Finally, what is the general rule for the number of cars needed to cross the desert when a full tank of petrol takes you 1/n of the total distance?

The fourth puzzle in the new feature from Tom Rocks Maths – check out the question below and send your answers to @tomrocksmaths on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or via the contact form on my website. The answer to the last puzzle can be found here.

Viscosity is a property of a fluid on the molecular scale and is a measure of the strength of the internal friction between fluid particles. What this means in practice is that the thicker and stickier the fluid, the higher its viscosity.

Your task in this week’s puzzle is to order the six fluids below by their viscosity, lowest first. The answer will be posted in 2 weeks along with the next puzzle – good luck!

WARNING: answer below image so scroll slowly to avoid revealing it accidentally.

3. Air 1.81 x 10-5 [Pa s]

2. Water 8.9 x 10-4

1. Blood 3 x 10-3

6. Honey 2-10 [Pa s]

5. Ketchup 50-100 [Pa s]

4. Peanut butter 250 [Pa s]

The third puzzle in the new feature from Tom Rocks Maths – check out the question below and send your answers to @tomrocksmaths on TwitterFacebook, Instagram or via the contact form on my website. The answer to the last puzzle can be found here.

Can you place the (extremely) famous mathematicians below in order of the year that they were born, earliest first? Bonus points for telling me what they studied.

WARNING: answer below image so scroll slowly to avoid revealing it accidentally.

b. Fermat: 1601-1665 – The French mathematician behind the infamous ‘Last Theorem’ written in the margins of his copy of Arithmetica in 1637. The theorem was finally shown to be true by Andrew Wiles 358 years later.

d. Newton: 1643-1727 – Most famous for his formulation of the Law of Gravity, but he also made significant contributions to geometry and is credited with developing calculus alongside Leibniz.

a. Euler: 1707-1783 – He worked on every almost every area of maths, but perhaps most famous for Euler’s number e=2.718… and Euler’s identity e  + 1 = 0.

c. Gauss: 1777-1855 – Like Euler, Gauss worked across all branches of maths and made significant contributions to Statistics with the Gaussian Distribution and physics with Gauss’ Flux Law.

The second puzzle in the new feature from Tom Rocks Maths – check out the question below and send your answers to me @tomrocksmaths on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or via the contact form on my website. The answer to the first puzzle can be found here.

Below are portraits of four famous mathematicians from history that have all died in tragic circumstances. Your task is to match up the mathematician with one of the following causes of death:

• Shot in a duel
• Pushed overboard from a ship
• Suicide
• Lost his mind

Bonus points for explaining the work of any of the mathematicians shown. Good luck!

WARNING: answer below image so scroll slowly to avoid revealing it accidentally.