Four and Five

Jan 04, 2014

Ray: Get a piece of paper and write the number four, leave a little space, and write the number five. What common mathematical symbol, when placed between the numbers four and five, will result in a number that is greater than four but less than six?
Tom: It has to be a mathematical symbol? It can’t be, like, the word “or”?
Ray: No, it’s got to be something that’s commonly used in mathematics. You’ve used it many, many times – maybe even today.

RAY: I didn’t want anyone to work too hard on this. On the other hand I could have said greater than four and less than five, but that would make it too easy. It is the decimal point, between four and five, that yields a number greater than four and less than six, does it not? Four-point-five.

TOM: It does!

RAY: You were thinking of something esoteric, weren’t you?

TOM: I didn’t think of the decimal point as a mathematical symbol. I think of it as a period.

RAY: I’m sure everyone was thinking of square roots and division signs and the like. And the lowly decimal point, as is often the case, was overlooked. So who’s our winner?

TOM: Reggie Weeks from Shady Point, OK. Congratulations!

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