When I’m busy, tired, stressed, I turn to math

This has been a stressful few days. In my school, we have to write comments on each student (about 1/2 page single spaced) and those are due on Thursday. In addition, with the end of the third quarter, there has been a massive grading effort on my part to finish up the video projects I assigned. Plus, that hiring committee I was on took a ton of my time.

Still, even though I have bloodshot eyes and am crashing at random times during the day and evening, I couldn’t help but get addicted to working on Blinkdagger’s Monday Math Madness problem. I think I found a solution, but the great (and cruel) thing about optimization problems is that you can’t check to see if you have the best solution without proving that no other method will beat the method you came up with. Which I’m not going to do. But not knowing if I have the optimal solution is frustrating, but also exciting, because it’s a different experience to not know with certainty if I’ve finished the problem right or not.

I have to say that this problem, more than any other problem I’ve encountered in recent memory, has gotten my brain to work in such a different and crazy way that I have to recommend it to everyone. I think those in computer science (read: not me) will find it easier than I did.

With that said, the hardest part of this wasn’t actually coming up with my solution, but it was writing it in a way that could be understood by someone else. I wanted a student from, say, my high school math club to be able to follow the logic. But whether I succeeded or not, that’s a question that will have to wait until the contest is over and I post my solution.

With that said: check out the problem, test your mathematical mental mettle.

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One comment

  1. hint:

    Can you define an absolute lowest bound? How?

    Another hint: If you’re looking for the 3 fastest overall, how many get directly eliminated in each round?

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