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This is surely the ultimate mathematical riddle and most probably the first. It is about the life of Diophantus, the father of algebra, who lived in the second century. It comes from a fifth century Greek anthology of number games and puzzles created by Metrodorus. One of the problems (sometimes called his epitaph) is the riddle you see above.

The riddle can be written as an equation where \(x\) is the age Diophantus died.

$$\frac x6 + \frac x{12} + \frac x7 + 5 + \frac x2 + 4 = x$$The solution to this and other Transum puzzles, exercises and activities are available when you are signed in to your Transum subscription account. If you do not yet have an account and you are a teacher or parent you can apply for one here.

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## Numbers and the Making of UsI initially heard this book described on the Grammar Girl podcast and immediately went to find out more about it. I now have it on my Christmas present wish list and am looking forward to receiving a copy (hint!). "Caleb Everett provides a fascinating account of the development of human numeracy, from innate abilities to the complexities of agricultural and trading societies, all viewed against the general background of human cultural evolution. He successfully draws together insights from linguistics, cognitive psychology, anthropology, and archaeology in a way that is accessible to the general reader as well as to specialists." more... |