Matchstick Mathematics Number H

Sep 25, 1999

RAY: It was This was not from my famous "matchstick" series. This one came from our friend Murray Priceler.

TOM: Ah, yeah.

RAY: He says, "Take your matchsticks out, or your pen with which you will draw matchsticks, or whatever."

TOM: All right. I'm going to do this.

RAY: "And make the following in Arabic numerals."

TOM: Oh, I didn't work on this one.

RAY: Well, I know that.

TOM: I remember this now.

RAY: Because if you had, you would have complained. "One + 1 + 11." You got that? No equals sign. Just 1 + 1 + 11. So, including the plus sign, you're using eight matches.

TOM: Yeah. OK.

RAY: Now, here's the Puzzler: "Move one match and make that sum equal to 130, a hundred thirty."


RAY: OK. So take that 1 + 1 + 11, OK, and move one match and make that sum equal to 130. And we stipulated that you have to stick with Arabic. You can't can't go mixing and matching. That was Murray's complaint. He said you can't go...pi isn't a Roman numeral, and you can't turn things upside-down. And even though Tommy's not going to like this one, Murray contends it's more legitimate than those bogus ones that I've been given. And very simply, you take the vertical piece from the second plus sign--the vertical piece...

TOM: Right.

RAY: And by removing that, you turn that into, what? A minus sign. We'll agree to that?

TOM: I agree at that, yeah.

RAY: Then you take that piece, and, placing it so it touches the top of the other plus sign and the leftmost part, you convert that plus sign into a 4. So you make 141 - 11.

TOM: Oh! I don't like it, Murray! Well, here's the obvious problem. I mean, this is a simple geometry problem. When you put that match there, what is the length of the hypotenuse that you just made? It's only half the length of a matchstick.

RAY: I didn't tell you. You break...

TOM: So, you've got the...

RAY: When you're moving it, you break a piece.

TOM: You break it in half? You break it in half? And Murray thinks that's better than pi!? Oh, Murray! We have to talk. We have to talk! Oh, man! Oh! We should, I think by default--just like when Ford screws up and all the paint starts peeling off their cars, what's the right thing to do? What do we always say is the right thing to do? They should take back every single car and repaint it.

RAY: So, we're going to take back the Puzzler?

TOM: We should give everyone who sent in an answer, right or wrong...

RAY: A prize.

TOM: Everyone's a winner.

RAY: I'm sticking with Murray.

TOM: We owe 500,000 people 25 bucks.

RAY: I'm sticking with Murray.

TOM: Murray's bogus! That's bogus! I'm sorry. I don't mean to... all right? Oh, man!

RAY: Anyway, who's our winner this week?

TOM: Oh, everyone's a winner!

RAY: Everyone's a winner!

TOM: Everyone should be a winner. We're going to - oh, this is bogus. We're going to give...reluctantly here and under pressure here, I am going to say that the winner this week is Terry Horlick from Grass Valley, California.

Get the Car Talk Newsletter