Category Archives: Cnennai Math Institute Entrance Exam

The animals went in which way

The animals may have gone into Noah’s Ark two by two, but in which order did they go in? Given the following sentence (yes, sentence! — I make no apologies for the punctuation), what was the order in which the animals entered the Ark?

The monkeys went in before the sheep, swans, chickens, peacocks, geese, penguins and spiders, but went in after the horses, badgers, squirrels and tigers, the latter of which went in before the horses, the penguins, the rabbits, the pigs, the donkeys, the snakes and the mice, but the mice went before the leopards, the leopards before the squirrels, the squirrels before the chickens, the chickens before the penguins, spiders, sheep, geese and the peacocks, the peacocks before the geese and the penguins, the penguins before the spiders and after the geese and the horses, the horses before the donkeys, the chickens and the leopards, the leopards after the foxes and the ducks, the ducks before the goats, swans, doves, foxes and badgers before the chickens, horses, squirrels and swans and after the lions, tigers, foxes, squirrels and ducks, the ducks after the lions, elephants, rabbits and otters, the otters before the elephants, tigers, chickens and beavers, the beavers after the elephants, the elephants before the lions, the lions before the tigers, the sheep before the peacocks, the swans before the chickens, the pigs before the snakes, the snakes before the foxes, the pigs after the rabbits, goats, tigers and doves, the doves before the chickens, horses, goats, donkeys and snakes, the snakes after the goats, and the donkeys before the mice and the squirrels.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Nalin Pithwa.

Announcement: Scholarships for RMO Training

Mathematics Hothouse.

Can anyone have fun with infinite series?

Below is list of finitely many puzzles on infinite series to keep you a bit busy !! 🙂 Note that these puzzles do have an academic flavour, especially concepts of convergence and divergence of an infinite series.

Puzzle 1: A grandmother’s vrat (fast) requires her to keep odd number of lamps of finite capacity lit in a temple at any time during 6pm to 6am the next morning. Each oil-filled lamp lasts 1 hour and it burns oil at a constant rate. She is not allowed to light any lamp after 6pm but she can light any number of lamps before 6pm and transfer oil from some to the others throughout the night while keeping odd number of lamps lit all the time. How many fully-filled oil lamps does she need to complete her vrat?

Puzzle 2: Two number theorists, bored in a chemistry lab, played a game with a large flask containing 2 liters of a colourful chemical solution and an ultra-accurate pipette. The game was that they would take turns to recall a prime number p such that p+2 is also a prime number. Then, the first number theorist would pipette out \frac{1}{p} litres of chemical and the second \frac{1}{(p+2)} litres. How many times do they have to play this game to empty the flask completely?

Puzzle 3: How farthest from the edge of a table can a deck of playing cards be stably overhung if the cards are stacked on top of one another? And, how many of them will be overhanging completely away from the edge of the table?

Puzzle 4: Imagine a tank that can be filled with infinite taps and can be emptied with infinite drains. The taps, turned on alone, can fill the empty tank to its full capacity in 1 hour, 3 hours, 5 hours, 7 hours and so on. Likewise, the drains opened alone, can drain a full tank in 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours, and so on. Assume that the taps and drains are sequentially arranged in the ascending order of their filling and emptying durations.

Now, starting with an empty tank, plumber A alternately turns on a tap for 1 hour and opens the drain for 1 hour, all operations done one at a time in a sequence. His sequence, by using t_{i} for i^{th} tap and d_{j} for j^{th} drain, can be written as follows: \{ t_{1}, d_{1}, t_{2}, d_{2}, \ldots\}_{A}.

When he finishes his operation, mathematically, after using all the infinite taps and drains, he notes that the tank is filled to a certain fraction, say, n_{A}<1.

Then, plumber B turns one tap on for 1 hour and then opens two drains for 1 hour each and repeats his sequence: \{ (t_{1},d_{1},d_{2}), (t_{2},d_{3},d_{4}), (t_{3},d_{4},d_{5}) \ldots \}_{B}.

At the end of his (B’s) operation, he finds that the tank is filled to a fraction that is exactly half of what plumber A had filled, that is, 0.5n_{A}.

How is this possible even though both have turned on all taps for 1 hour and opened all drains for 1 hour, although in different sequences?

I hope u do have fun!!

-Nalin Pithwa.

Logicalympics — 100 meters!!!

Just as you go to the gym daily and increase your physical stamina, so also, you should go to the “mental gym” of solving hard math or logical puzzles daily to increase your mental stamina. You should start with a laser-like focus (or, concentrate like Shiva’s third eye, as is famous in Hindu mythology/scriptures!!) for 15-30 min daily and sustain that pace for a month at least. Give yourself a chance. Start with the following:

The logicalympics take place every year in a very quiet setting so that the competitors can concentrate on their events — not so much the events themselves, but the results. At the logicalympics every event ends in a tie so that no one goes home disappointed 🙂 There were five entries in the room, so they held five races in order that each competitor could win, and so that each competitor could also take his/her turn in 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place. The final results showed that each competitor had duly taken taken their turn in finishing in each of the five positions. Given the following information, what were the results of each of the five races?

The five competitors were A, B, C, D and E. C didn’t win the fourth race. In the first race A finished before C who in turn finished after B. A finished in a better position in the fourth race than in the second race. E didn’t win the second race. E finished two places  behind C in the first race. D lost the fourth race. A finished ahead of B in the fourth race, but B finished before A and C in the third race. A had already finished before C in the second race who in turn finished after B again. B was not first in the first race and D was not last. D finished in a better position in the second race than in the first race and finished before B. A wasn’t second in the second race and also finished before B.

So, is your brain racing now to finish this puzzle?


Nalin Pithwa.

PS: Many of the puzzles on my blog(s) are from famous literature/books/sources, but I would not like to reveal them as I feel that students gain the most when they really try these questions on their own rather than quickly give up and ask for help or look up solutions. Students have finally to stand on their own feet! (I do not claim creating these questions or puzzles; I am only a math tutor and sometimes, a tutor on the web.) I feel that even a “wrong” attempt is a “partial” attempt; if u can see where your own reasoning has failed, that is also partial success!

Pick’s theorem to pick your brains!!

Pick’s theorem:

Consider a square lattice of unit side. A simple polygon (with non-intersecting sides) of any shape is drawn with its vertices at the lattice points. The area of the polygon can be simply obtained as (B/2)+I-1 square units, where B is number of lattice points on the boundary, I is number of lattice points in the interior of the polygon. Prove this theorem!

Do you like this challenge?

Nalin Pithwa.

Limits that arise frequently

We continue our presentation of basic stuff from Calculus and Analytic Geometry, G B Thomas and Finney, Ninth Edition. My express purpose in presenting these few proofs is to emphasize that Calculus, is not just a recipe of calculation techniques. Or, even, a bit further, math is not just about calculation. I have a feeling that such thinking nurtured/developed at a young age, (while preparing for IITJEE Math, for example) makes one razor sharp.

We verify a few famous limits.

Formula 1:

If |x|<1, \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}x^{n}=0

We need to show that to each \in >0 there corresponds an integer N so large that |x^{n}|<\in for all n greater than N. Since \in^{1/n}\rightarrow 1, while |x|<1. there exists an integer N for which \in^{1/n}>|x|. In other words,

|x^{N}|=|x|^{N}<\in. Call this (I).

This is the integer we seek because, if |x|<1, then

|x^{n}|<|x^{N}| for all n>N. Call this (II).

Combining I and II produces |x^{n}|<\in for all n>N, concluding the proof.

Formula II:

For any number x, \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}(1+\frac{x}{n})^{n}=e^{x}.

Let a_{n}=(1+\frac{x}{n})^{n}. Then, \ln {a_{n}}=\ln{(1+\frac{x}{n})^{n}}=n\ln{(1+\frac{x}{n})}\rightarrow x,

as we can see by the following application of l’Hopital’s rule, in which we differentiate with respect to n:

\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}n\ln{(1+\frac{x}{n})}=\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}\frac{\ln{(1+x/n)}}{1/n}, which in turn equals

\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}\frac{(\frac{1}{1+x/n}).(-\frac{x}{n^{2}})}{-1/n^{2}}=\lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}\frac{x}{1+x/n}=x.

Now, let us apply the following theorem with f(x)=e^{x} to the above:

(a theorem for calculating limits of sequences) the continuous function theorem for sequences:

Let a_{n} be a sequence of real numbers. If \{a_{n}\} be a sequence of real numbers. If a_{n} \rightarrow L and if f is a function that is continu0us at L and defined at all a_{n}, then f(a_{n}) \rightarrow f(L).

So, in this particular proof, we get the following:

(1+\frac{x}{n})^{n}=a_{n}=e^{\ln{a_{n}}}\rightarrow e^{x}.

Formula 3:

For any number x, \lim_{n \rightarrow \infty}\frac{x^{n}}{n!}=0

Since -\frac{|x|^{n}}{n!} \leq \frac{x^{n}}{n!} \leq \frac{|x|^{n}}{n!},

all we need to show is that \frac{|x|^{n}}{n!} \rightarrow 0. We can then apply the Sandwich Theorem for Sequences (Let \{a_{n}\}, \{b_{n}\} and \{c_{n}\} be sequences of real numbers. if a_{n}\leq b_{n}\leq c_{n} holds for all n beyond some index N, and if \lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}a_{n}=\lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}c_{n}=L,, then \lim_{n\rightarrow \infty}b_{n}=L also) to  conclude that \frac{x^{n}}{n!} \rightarrow 0.

The first step in showing that |x|^{n}/n! \rightarrow 0 is to choose an integer M>|x|, so that (|x|/M)<1. Now, let us the rule (formula 1, mentioned above), so we conclude that:(|x|/M)^{n}\rightarrow 0. We then restrict our attention to values of n>M. For these values of n, we can write:

\frac{|x|^{n}}{n!}=\frac{|x|^{n}}{1.2 \ldots M.(M+1)(M+2)\ldots n}, where there are (n-M) factors in the expression (M+1)(M+2)\ldots n, and

the RHS in the above expression is \leq \frac{|x|^{n}}{M!M^{n-M}}=\frac{|x|^{n}M^{M}}{M!M^{n}}=\frac{M^{M}}{M!}(\frac{|x|}{M})^{n}. Thus,

0\leq \frac{|x|^{n}}{n!}\leq \frac{M^{M}}{M!}(\frac{|x|}{M})^{n}. Now, the constant \frac{M^{M}}{M!} does not change as n increases. Thus, the Sandwich theorem tells us that \frac{|x|^{n}}{n!} \rightarrow 0 because (\frac{|x|}{M})^{n}\rightarrow 0.

That’s all, folks !!


Nalin Pithwa.

Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem and the Stronger Form of l’Hopital’s Rule

Reference: Thomas, Finney, 9th edition, Calculus and Analytic Geometry.

Continuing our previous discussion of “theoretical” calculus or “rigorous” calculus, I am reproducing below the proof of the finite limit case of the stronger form of l’Hopital’s Rule :

L’Hopital’s Rule (Stronger Form):

Suppose that


and that the functions f and g are both differentiable on an open interval (a,b) that contains the point x_{0}. Suppose also that g^{'} \neq 0 at every point in (a,b) except possibly at x_{0}. Then,

\lim_{x \rightarrow x_{0}}\frac{f(x)}{g(x)}=\lim_{x \rightarrow x_{0}}\frac{f^{x}}{g^{x}} ….call this equation I,

provided the limit on the right exists.

The proof of the stronger form of l’Hopital’s Rule is based on Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem, a mean value theorem that involves two functions instead of one. We prove Cauchy’s theorem first and then show how it leads to l’Hopital’s Rule. 

Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem:

Suppose that the functions f and g are continuous on [a,b] and differentiable throughout (a,b) and suppose also that g^{'} \neq 0 throughout (a,b). Then there exists a number c in (a,b) at which

\frac{f^{'}(c)}{g^{'}(c)} = \frac{f(b)-f(a)}{g(b)-g(a)}…call this II.

The ordinary Mean Value Theorem is the case where g(x)=x.

Proof of Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem:

We apply the Mean Value Theorem twice. First we use it to show that g(a) \neq g(b). For if g(b) did equal to g(a), then the Mean Value Theorem would give:

g^{'}(c)=\frac{g(b)-g(a)}{b-a}=0 for some c between a and b. This cannot happen because g^{'}(x) \neq 0 in (a,b).

We next apply the Mean Value Theorem to the function:

F(x) = f(x)-f(a)-\frac{f(b)-f(a)}{g(b)-g(a)}[g(x)-g(a)].

This function is continuous and differentiable where f and g are, and F(b) = F(a)=0. Therefore, there is a number c between a and b for which F^{'}(c)=0. In terms of f and g, this says:

F^{'}(c) = f^{'}(c)-\frac{f(b)-f(a)}{g(b)-g(a)}[g^{'}(c)]=0, or

\frac{f^{'}(c)}{g^{'}(c)}=\frac{f(b)-f(a)}{g(b)-g(a)}, which is II above. QED.

Proof of the Stronger Form of l’Hopital’s Rule:

We first prove I for the case x \rightarrow x_{o}^{+}. The method needs no  change to apply to x \rightarrow x_{0}^{-}, and the combination of those two cases establishes the result.

Suppose that x lies to the right of x_{o}. Then, g^{'}(x) \neq 0 and we can apply the Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem to the closed interval from x_{0} to x. This produces a number c between x_{0} and x such that \frac{f^{'}(c)}{g^{'}(c)}=\frac{f(x)-f(x_{0})}{g(x)-g(x_{0})}.

But, f(x_{0})=g(x_{0})=0 so that \frac{f^{'}(c)}{g^{'}(c)}=\frac{f(x)}{g(x)}.

As x approaches x_{0}, c approaches x_{0} because it lies between x and x_{0}. Therefore, \lim_{x \rightarrow x_{0}^{+}}\frac{f(x)}{g(x)}=\lim_{x \rightarrow x_{0}^{+}}\frac{f^{'}(c)}{g^{'}(c)}=\lim_{x \rightarrow x_{0}^{+}}\frac{f^{'}(x)}{g^{'}(x)}.

This establishes l’Hopital’s Rule for the case where x approaches x_{0} from above. The case where x approaches x_{0} from below is proved by applying Cauchy’s Mean Value Theorem to the closed interval [x,x_{0}], where x< x_{0}QED.

The Sandwich Theorem or Squeeze Play Theorem

It helps to think about the core concepts of Calculus from a young age, if you want to develop your expertise or talents further in math, pure or applied, engineering or mathematical sciences. At a tangible level, it helps you attack more or many questions of the IIT JEE Advanced Mathematics. Let us see if you like the following proof, or can absorb/digest it:

Reference: Calculus and Analytic Geometry by Thomas and Finney, 9th edition.

The Sandwich Theorem:

Suppose that g(x) \leq f(x) \leq h(x) for all x in some open interval containing c, except possibly at x=c itself. Suppose also that \lim_{x \rightarrow c}g(x)= \lim_{x \rightarrow c}h(x)=L. Then, \lim_{x \rightarrow c}f(x)=c.

Proof for Right Hand Limits:

Suppose \lim_{x \rightarrow c^{+}}g(x)=\lim_{x \rightarrow c^{+}}h(x)=L. Then, for any \in >0, there exists a \delta >0 such that for all x, the inequality c<x<c+\delta implies L-\in<g(x)<L+\in and L-\in<h(x)<L+\in ….call this (I)

These inequalities combine with the inequality g(x) \leq f(x) \leq h(x) to give

L-\in <g(x) \leq f(x) \leq h(x)<L+\in

L-\in <f(x)<L+\in

-\in <f(x)-L<\in….call this (II)

Therefore, for all x, the inequality c<x<c+\delta implies |f(x)-L|<\in. …call this (III)

Proof for LeftHand Limits:

Suppose \lim_{x \rightarrow c^{-}} g(x)=\lim_{x \rightarrow c^{-}}=L. Then, for \in >0 there exists a \delta >0 such that for all x, the inequality c-\delta <x<c implies L-\in<g(x)<L+\in and L-\in<h(x)<L+\in …call this (IV).

We conclude as before that for all x, c-\delta <x<c implies |f(x)-L|<\in.

Proof for Two sided Limits:

If \lim_{x \rightarrow c}g(x) = \lim_{x \rightarrow c}h(x)=L, then g(x) and h(x) both approach L as x \rightarrow c^{+} and as x \rightarrow c^{-} so \lim_{x \rightarrow c^{+}}f(x)=L and \lim_{x \rightarrow c^{-}}f(x)=L. Hence, \lim_{x \rightarrow c}f(x)=L. QED.

Let me know your feedback on such stuff,

Nalin Pithwa

Lagrange’s Mean Value Theorem and Cauchy’s Generalized Mean Value Theorem

Lagrange’s Mean Value Theorem:

If a function f(x) is continuous on the interval [a,b] and differentiable at all interior points of the interval, there will be, within [a,b], at least one point c, a<c<b, such that f(b)-f(a)=f^{'}(c)(b-a).

Cauchy’s Generalized Mean Value Theorem:

If f(x) and phi(x) are two functions continuous on an interval [a,b] and differentiable within it, and phi(x) does not vanish anywhere inside the interval, there will be, in [a,b], a point x=c, a<c<b, such that \frac{f(b)-f(a)}{phi(b)-phi(a)} = \frac{f^{'}(c)}{phi^{'}(c)}.

Some questions based on the above:

Problem 1:

Form Lagrange’s formula for the function y=\sin(x) on the interval [x_{1},x_{2}].

Problem 2:

Verify the truth of Lagrange’s formula for the function y=2x-x^{2} on the interval [0,1].

Problem 3:

Applying Lagrange’s theorem, prove the inequalities: (i) e^{x} \geq 1+x (ii) \ln (1+x) <x, for x>0. (iii) b^{n}-a^{n}<ab^{n-1}(b-a) for b>a. (iv) \arctan(x) <x.

Problem 4:

Write the Cauchy formula for the functions f(x)=x^{2}, phi(x)=x^{3} on the interval [1,2] and find c.

More churnings with calculus later!

Nalin Pithwa.



Could a one-sided limit not exist ?

Here is basic concept of limit :