November, 2019

Ask Uncle Colin: Greatest Common Divisor (with Polynomials)

Dear Uncle Colin, I have to find the greatest common divisor of $x^4 - 5x^3 + 8x^2 - 10x + 12$ and $x^4 + x^2 - 2$. How do I go about that? - Extremely Unhappy, Clueless Learner In Distress Hi, EUCLID, and thanks for your message! Before we try

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A Triangle In A Square

In a currently-recent (but by the time you read this, long in the past) Chalkdust1, @cshearer42 gave a puzzle that caught my eye. One of the things I love about Catriona’s puzzles is that you usually get two-for-the-price-of-one: there’s “getting the right answer”, which is not usually hard, and there’s

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Ask Uncle Colin… About Partial Fractions

Dear Uncle Colin, I’m told that $f(x) = \frac{5x-7}{(x-1)(x-2)}, x\ne 1, x\ne 2$, and need to express it in partial fractions. My usual method would be to write it as $\frac{A}{x-1} + \frac{B}{x-2}$, multiply by $(x-1)(x-2)$ and substitute $x=1$ and $x=2$ to find $A$ and $B$ - but the definition

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Constructing the square root of 6

On Twitter, @RuedigerSimpson pointed me at an episode of My Favourite Theorem in which @FawnPNguyen mentioned a method for constructing $\sqrt{7}$: draw a circle of radius 4 construct a perpendicular to the radius at a distance of 3 from the centre the distance between the base of the perpendicular and

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Ask Uncle Colin: An Exponential Limit

Dear Uncle Colin, I need to work out the limit of $\frac{2^{3x} - 1}{3^{2x}-1}$ as $x \to 0$, and I don’t have any ideas at all. Do you? - Fractions Rotten, Exponents Generally Excellent Hi, FREGE, and thanks for your message! There are a couple of ways to approach this:

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A Harmonic Conundrum

This one came from user_1312 on reddit with a heading “This is a bit tricky… Enjoy!”. What else can we do but solve it? Let $m$ and $n$ be positive numbers such that $\frac{m}{n} = 1 + \frac{1}{2} + \frac{1}{3} + \dots + \frac{1}{101}$. Prove that $m-n$ is a multiple

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Wrong, But Useful, Episode 73

In this month's episode of Wrong, But Useful, we talk to @AJMagicMessage, who is Andrew Jeffrey in real life, and one of the driving forces behind Maths Week England, which in 2019 is November 11th to 15th. Apologies for a few issues with feedback in this episode. Dave takes full

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Ask Uncle Colin: How many draws?

Dear Uncle Colin, I’m trying to figure out how many possible draws there are for the Champions’ League quarter-finals. There are eight teams involved, and let’s assume first leg home advantage doesn’t matter (so A vs B is the same as B vs A) and there’s no restriction on which

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Dictionary of Mathematical Eponymy: The Kovalevskaya Top

When I was about eight, my parents bought, as a Christmas gift for my brother and me, a “Jungle Gym”, plastic tubes and connectors that fit together to make whatever the imagination came up with, a sort of large-scale Meccano. My brother went out into the garden to build castles

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