School-Safe Puzzle Games

Cool Math Brain Teaser, from MichaelC

Was leafing through the stack of pending puzzles, and came across this cool math brain teaser I totally forgot to put up last year. It was created by math whiz MichaelC.  Haven’t seen him around in awhile, hope he’s doing ok.

“I know the birth years of myself, my mother, and my sister are prime numbers. And I know when my mother celebrates her birthday this year, the sum of our ages will be 196 years. I also know my sister is 2 years older than I am.

But the question I have is, how old is my mother?”

29 Comments to “Cool Math Brain Teaser, from MichaelC”


  1. Jimmy Anders | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    If X is the birth year of the mother, Y is the birth year of the sister, then MichaelC’s birth year is Y + 2. Since the sum of ages is 196, and the puzzle is from 2009, this means:


    196 = [2009 - X] + [2009 - Y] + [2009 - [Y + 2]],
    which means:


    X + 2Y = 5829.


    Since X < Y (the mother was born before the sister):


    5829 = X + 2Y 1943.


    So, all we need to do is find “twin primes” whose smaller twin is greater than 1943, whose bigger twin is less than 2009, and which yield an X from the first equation that is prime. This is easiest checked by a list of primes, which can be found online, or generated by a homemade program using the sieve of Erastothenes, whichever you like. (You’ll find that there is only one other pair of twin primes in the range, but even if they did work, then the mother would’ve been impossibly older than her children.) The triple of primes in question turns out to be:


    X = 1931, Y = 1949, and Y + 2 = 1951.


    If the mother was born in 1931, that means her age in 2009 was 78.


  2. ikickass | Profile

    sorry,78 (or 79,we’re in 2010 now) is the answer :)


  3. hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    RK, don’t tell me this lady cost you the same as the other girl (from ….olia)


  4. hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    The solution is possible if and only if either my sister or my birthday comes before mother’s.
    mother: 1933
    sister: 1949
    me: 1951
    so mother’s age: 77 after she celebrates her birthday this year, ie 76 before her birthday.


  5. engjs1960 | Profile

    1931, 1949, 1951, 78 years old


  6. dhunnapotha | Profile

    Mothers age is 78.
    Assuming that “this year” in the question refers to 2009 (“I totally forgot to put up last year”;), the birth years are 1931, 1949 and 1951


  7. cheddarmelt | Profile

    The only primes separated by two (self and sister) in the 1900′s are 1931/1933 and 1949/1951. Only the second pair results in a logical age gap. The sister was born in 1949 and the speaker was born in 1951, for a combined age of 120, if both have had birthdays this calendar year. That leaves 76 years, which would be 1934. Therefore, the mother was born in 1933; two of the family members have had birthdays already this year, but the third has not. Since the puzzle says, “when my mother celebrates her birthday this year,” indicating that she is the one who has not yet had her birthday. She is currently 76 and will be turning 77 later this year.


  8. Tsopi | Profile

    seams impossible…i cannot find any prime numbers that have a distance of 2 numbers and when their sum is substracted by 196 get a prime number…unless i didn’t understand a part of the puzzle..this is impossible


  9. Blusummers13 | Profile

    Just a couple of questions:
    Are the prime numbers the 4-digit years or the 2 digit?
    Ex: 02 is a prime number, 2002 is not.
    Also, what year is “this year”? I only ask since you mentioned that you forgot to post this last year.
    Thanks.


  10. Shawn | PUZZLE GRANDMASTER | Profile

    Good thing you said that this puzzle was from last year! The ages only work for 2009.


    Mom = 78 years old (1931)
    Brother = 58 years old (1949)
    Sister = 60 years old (1951)


  11. RK | Founder | Profile

    Hi ther Blusummers13, the primes are the 4 digit years.


    “This year”- is 2009


  12. RK | Founder | Profile

    Yes, please remember-this quesiton was posed in 2009, so you may want to check your answer as to ‘how old is my mother’


  13. Blusummers13 | Profile

    Mother is 78. Born in 1931.


  14. Blusummers13 | Profile

    Unless she has had her birthday in 2010 already of course. :)


  15. hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    I noticed the “last year”, but thought you had adjusted the figures to compensate. Since it is 2009 now :) the answer will be slightly different:
    The solution is possible if and only if my sister and my birthday come before or the same day as mother’s.
    mother: 1933
    sister: 1949
    me: 1951
    so mother’s age: 76 after she celebrates her birthday this year (2009), ie 75 before her birthday.


    Glad that mother has become 1 year younger :D


  16. Adam | Profile

    I was born in 1951, and I am 58 years old.
    My sister was born in 1949, and she is 60 years old.
    My mother was born in 1931, and she will be 78 this year.


    My mother is currently 77 years old.


  17. suineg | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    Cool puzzle MichaelC, I think it goes like this:
    two primes with a difference of two and that the ages of all the persons would fit logically with the sum of the ages being 196 for the year 2009:


    Birth year
    Mother: 1931
    Sister: 1949
    MichaelC: 1951


    Ages in 2009:


    Mother: 78
    Sister: 60
    MichaelC: 58
    Verification: 78+60+58= 196
    This would fit logically and all the birth years are prime.


  18. fuzzy | Profile

    Mom must be 78. The kids are 60 and 58. Their years of birth are 1931 (mom), 1949 (sister), 1951 (“I”;).


  19. cheddarmelt | Profile

    I had assumed that RK would have recalculated everything to make it correct as of the day he posted. It never occurred to me that he would have done otherwise. That DOES change the answer.


    Here are my new calculations:
    The only primes separated by two (self and sister) in the 1900’s are 1931/1933 and 1949/1951. Only the second pair results in a logical age gap. The sister was born in 1949 and the speaker was born in 1951, for a combined age of 118, if both have had birthdays this calendar year. That leaves 78 years once she reaches the birthday in 2009, or 77 years of age at the time.


  20. RK | Founder | Profile

    Well, I really botched this one, sorry about that.


    MichaelC submitted this in 2009, and in my rush to put it up, I didn’t modify the #s to make it appropriate for 2010. When I realized the mistake, tried to point things out by adding a ‘comment’, but don’t think many of you saw it in time.


    In any case, MichaelC was out to trip you guys up with a fiendish little maneuver :)


    As it would have been presented in 2009,the correct answer would have been 77, not 78. (“When my mother celebrates her Birthday this year).


    I think Chedddarmelt and Adam picked up on this


  21. RK | Founder | Profile

    @Hex-:lol:
    unlike wine, some things do NOT get better (more $$) with age!


  22. hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    I have no clue how 1933 crept in my answer for the mother’s birth year, especially that my calculation paper shows 1931. Mother has become 2 years older than I had thought. Damn it!


    Anyway, a prerequisite of the answer is that my sister’s birthday and mine must be earlier in the year than my mother’s. Otherwise, the puzzle will not have a solution.


  23. michaelc | Profile

    Greetings Everyone,


    I’m a few puzzles behind as of late, but I swear I will catch up one weekend soon! There are a few I can’t wait to try. :)


    The 77 part is a rotten trick. Almost as rotten as a 2009 birthday puzzle in the year 2010! Just teasing RK. Thanks for posting!


    Keep up the great work with the site!


  24. RK | Founder | Profile

    Hey there Michaelc!! Thanks for stopping by! :)


  25. 10dulkar | Profile

    Hi guys & gals…


    I wonder why you all forget that 1949 is NOT a prime year! Why? Off course I’ll elaborate. 49 is divisible not only by 1 & itself but also by 7 so NOT a prime number…so all those answers involving births in 1949 are WRONG! Take that from me…


    Now my solution is as follows:


    Mother’s birth year: 1911
    Sister’s birth year: 1959
    My birth year: 1951


    First and foremost I am assuming that the ‘current year’ (in which the puzzle is written) is 2009.


    Now let’s start by listing the prime numbers (between 1 and 99). They are:


    2 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 23 29 31 37 41 43 47 53 59 61 67 71
    73 79 83 89 97


    Immediately we see that the only possible combinations for the sister’s & my birth years (in that order) are:


    a. 3, 5
    b. 11, 13
    c. 17, 19
    d. 41, 43
    e. 59, 61
    f. 71, 73


    We can rule out the first 4 combinations (a through c) because the brother & sister would be so old that the mother would have to be younger (physically impossible!)


    That leaves e & f. Let’s go through these 2 options and rule out the incorrect ones.


    Take f.
    Sister born in 1971 > is 2009-1971 = 38 yrs old
    I am born in 1973 > am 2009-1973 = 36 yrs old
    That would mean Mother is 196-38-36 = 122 yrs old
    If mother’s 122 years old her birth year is 2009-122 = 1887


    So now we have the following facts
    Mother born in 1887 (11 is NOT prime)and is 122 years old
    Sister born in 1971 (71 is prime) and is 38 years old
    I am born in 1973 (73 is prime) and am 36 years old


    The total age of the 3 of us is: 122+38+36 = 196, BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT ABOUT THIS SOLUTION IS THAT THE MOTHER’S BIRTH YEAR (87 as in 1887) IS NOT A PRIME NUMBER…SO THIS IS NOT THE RIGHT SOLUTION


    Take e.
    Sister born in 1959 > is 2009-1959 = 50 yrs old
    I am born in 1943 > am 2009-1961 = 48 yrs old
    That would mean Mother is 196-50-48 = 98 yrs old
    If mother’s 98 years old her birth year is 2009-98 = 1911


    So now we have the following facts
    Mother born in 1911 (11 is prime)and is 98 years old
    Sister born in 1959 (59 is prime) and is 50 years old
    I am born in 1961 (61 is prime) and am 48 years old


    The total age of the 3 of us is: 98+50+48 = 196


    The (ONLY) CORRECT OPTION leading to the answer is combination e


    Regards,
    10dulkar


  26. 10dulkar | Profile

    1. Oh please strike out the comment in my post above that reads:


    My birth year: 1951


    The correct line should read:


    My birth year: 1961


    2. Also in the section that reads:


    Take e.
    Sister born in 1959 > is 2009-1959 = 50 yrs old
    I am born in 1943 > am 2009-1961 = 48 yrs old
    That would mean Mother is 196-50-48 = 98 yrs old
    If mother’s 98 years old her birth year is 2009-98 = 1911


    my birth is not 1943 but 1961…


    Sorry for the confusion…and this is the correct answer!


    10dulkar


  27. Hex | PUZZLE MASTER | Profile

    10dulkar, why do you consider only the last 2 digits of the year when checking for primeness?


  28. 10dulkar | Profile

    Hex…


    That is a good point. Guess one can look at it both ways, but the 4 digit way is the true way. That results in the following solution:


    Sister > born in 1949 > is 2009-1949 = 60 years
    My age > born in 1951 > is 2009-1951 = 58 years
    Mother’s age = 196-60-58 = 78 years
    Mother’s birth year = 2009-78 = 1931


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