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MATHS WEEK: Figure out this puzzle using the genius of George Boole

Can you figure this out?

MATHS WEEK IS well underway with the country celebrating all the great things about algebra, trigonometry, probability and calculus.

Each morning, we’ve been setting you a puzzle to test your mathematical mettle. It’s all part of the drive to improve Ireland’s numeracy skills – and remember it’s never too late.

(If numbers absolutely terrify you, take a trip to the website where you’ll find more information and help).

Let’s get to Thursday’s puzzle: 

George Boole became the first professor of mathematics at Queen’s College Cork (now UCC) despite never having attended university himself.

Born in Lincoln 200 years ago on 2 November, he was largely self-taught. He made many contributions to mathematics which earned him the reputation that allowed him to beat off highly-qualified opposition for the Cork professorship.

While teaching in Cork and boarding at 5 Grenville Place on the River Lee he wrote the Laws of Thought within which he showed how arguments from language could be expressed in an algebra that he created.

This book became one of the core foundations of the information age. The mathematics now known as Boolean Algebra is used in every digital device and the internet itself.

(The house in Grenville Place suffered shameful neglect for years but plans are now afoot from UCC to rescue it). Boolean algebra could be used for puzzles like this one below, but it can equally be solved by using a methodical logical approach.

1. At Mr Thomas Bainbridge’s Commercial Academy in Lincoln the top four boys sat a mathematics exam. Mr Bainbridge called in the four boys for their prizes to be awarded in-camera. When the four came out they were surrounded by the other boys clambering to know the pecking order. Tom was first to break the silence:

We’re not allowed say, but Dick was second last and Harry was last.

Dick was annoyed with this and responded:

George was actually last and Harry was second.

Harry was not going to be left out and added:

Dick was second and Tom was last.

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The crowd turned to George pleading that they couldn’t work it out.

“I am honour bound not to tell you,” he stated seriously. “But I will tell you to only believe half of what each of my colleagues has told you.”

Can you work out the ranking of the boys in the test?

Check back tomorrow, same time of 11.15am, for the answers and for Friday’s puzzle. 

Click here for the answers to Wednesday’s puzzle.

These handy tips will help develop your child’s maths skills (without them knowing it)>

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