Mathematician

Question:

A man taking the census walks up to the apartment of a mathematician and asks him if he has any children and how old they are. The mathematician says “I have three daughters and the product of their ages is 72.” The man tells the mathematician that he needs more information, so the mathematician tells him “The sum of their ages is equal to our apartment number.” The man still needs more information so the mathematician tells him “My oldest daughter has her own bed and the other two share bunk beds.”

How old are his daughters?

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C

A

P

T

A

I

N

I

N

T

E

R

V

I

E

W

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Answer: His daughters are 8, 3, and 3. The prime factorization of 72 is 2 * 2 * 2 * 3 * 3, so the possible ages are 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 12, and 18. Using the prime factorization and these numbers the only combinations of numbers that work for the first clue are:

18, 2 and 2.
9, 4 and 2.
6, 6 and 2.
6, 4 and 3.
8, 3, and 3.

Since he doesn’t know the ages after this piece of information the sum of the three numbers must not be unique. The sum of 8, 3, and 3; and 6, 6, and 2 are the same. Now the final clue comes in handy. Since we know that the oldest daughter has her own bed it is likely that she has the bed to herself and is older than the other two so there ages are 8, 3, and 3 rather than 2, 6 and 6.

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