Wednesday, March 4, 2015

[Pri20150303LIH] Lollipop in the Haystack

The number of lollipops in a box is between  60  and  100.  If they are put into packets of 3, there will be 1 lollipop left.  If they are put into packets of 5, there will be 1 lollipop left.  If they are put into packets of 7, there will be no lollipop left.  How many lollipops are there in the box?

     This question seems to involve writing lists of numbers and finding the elusive common number.  Some school teacher did just that starting from 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, when the question already mentions that the number is between  60  and  100.  To add insult to injury, the boy who got this wrong in a test copied this teacher’s “model solution” as corrections!  Sigh!
     Is there a simple way to solve this mathematics problem without rummaging through the entire haystack, as it were?  The answer is: thankfully yes!


Ans: 91 lollipops


First, I draw a table to analyse the remainders when divided by 3, 5 and 7.  [using heuristics H02 and H03].  The question asks for a number with remainders (1, 1, 0).  However, we can SHIFT the problem.  [H09]  If we consider one less than the required number, the remainders are (0, 0, 6).  We look for a number with such a profile.

Having zero remainders under division by 3 and by 5, this number must be a multiple of 15.  Trying 15 [H07], I get  (0, 0, 1) because 15 = 2´14+1.  To get a remainder-profile of (0, 0, 6), I multiply by 6, and I get 15´6 = 90. Now I just SHIFT back 1 to get the required answer!

List of Heuristics Used
H02. Use a diagram / model
H03. Make a systematic list
H07. Use guess and check
H09. Restate the problem in another way

For Your Information

     In solving this question, I did not really use any Chinese Remainder Theorem or advanced mathematics.  I merely used heuristics that can be understood by most people, including the parents helping them and the teachers marking the test scripts.  J
The kids?  Oh!  They will be fine.  They will learn well if we equip them with powerful thinking skills but do not interfere too much.  Shift happens!   J

Related problem here.

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