Puzzles

Untitled presentation
#1: The Pirate Puzzle
Something fun to start off with.
Published: 30/11/2014
Difficulty: *
Mathematical knowledge required: None

#2: The Ultimate Tiebreaker
A logic puzzle that I came up with myself.
Published:
10/12/2014
Difficulty: ***
Maths knowledge required: None (though familiarity with logic puzzles may help)

#3: Kidnapped by the Mad Hatter
A coloured hat puzzle!
Published:
 16/03/2015
Difficulty: **
Maths knowledge required: None

#4: Hidden depths…
A classic algebra puzzle.
Published:
 02/06/2015
Difficulty: *
Maths knowledge required: GCSE algebra [i.e. 14-16 year olds]. Although KS3 would do…

#5: Where Wolf?
A truth-tellers and liars puzzle.
Published:
 12/06/2015
Difficulty: **
Maths knowledge required: None

#6: Match Point Mystery
An adapted version of a tennis puzzle created by Colin Beveridge.
Published: 09/07/2015
Difficulty: **
Maths knowledge required: Very basic sequences

#7: Gridlock
A deceptively simple puzzle. Fill in the grid.
Published: 29/07/2015
Difficulty: *
Maths knowledge required: Very basic – calculating means.

BONUS: Sequence Challenge
A prize challenge, with daily updates, which ran for three weeks in September 2015.
Published: 01/09/2015
Difficulty: ***
Maths knowledge required: Reasonable mathematical background knowledge.

CHRISTMAS PUZZLES 2016: The Indisputable Santa Mathematical Advent Calendar
24 days of puzzles (almost) to accompany the Christmas maths book I wrote with Dr Hannah Fry.
Published: Dec 2015
Difficulty: Mostly * or **
Maths knowledge required: Various, but mostly very basic

BONUS: Elf, Imp & Pixie Chessboard Puzzles
Variations on the well-known Eight Queens Puzzle, developed for the Advent Calendar, then extended.
Published: 09/12/2016, 01/01/2017
Difficulty: **
Maths knowledge required: None


DIFFICULTY RATINGS:
* – Not too taxing
** – Requires significant thought
*** – Extremely difficult
!!!! – Requires high level mathematics / Unsolved / Insoluble


I love puzzles. One of the beauties of studying mathematics is that it gives you the tools to attack a whole universe of new puzzles and, sometimes, to see well-known puzzles in new ways. However, a puzzle doesn’t have to require complicated maths to make it interesting.

For me, a really good puzzle needs three things. It should be challenging, so that you feel a sense of achievement when you’ve solved it; it should require creative thinking, rather than the tedious and repetitive application of some well-rehearsed rules (sorry Sudoku lovers); and, most importantly of all, it should have a result that is unexpected or surprising in some way. Indeed, some of the best puzzles can surprise you by the fact that they even have a solution at all.

This page will be home to a selection of my favourite mathematical and not-so-mathematical puzzles. As a general attributional disclaimer, many of these are puzzles that I first encountered many years ago, which have simply stuck in my memory, so I often won’t be sure of the original source. While I will therefore do my best to cite my references, there will inevitably be some missing. Apologies in advance.

For each puzzle, I will provide a difficulty star rating (a key to which can be found at the bottom of the page), and I will try to indicate the level of maths required to tackle it (in some cases, none at all). Obviously the difficulty judgement is quite subjective, so I may be way off the mark. It is only really intended to provide some forewarning of how much thought might need to be invested in each puzzle.

Anyway, hope you enjoy.

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