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Child Mind

The Riddle

Consider this riddle I found spread­ing on Face­book some while ago.

This problem can be solved by children in five to ten minutes, programmers in an hour and people with higher education…

88096  55550
71110  81933
21720  80965
66664  11110
32130  99994
76622  77561
93131  68553
00004  98815
22220  55310
33330  2581 → ?

I solved it pretty quickly. Why don’t you try?

Have you seen the Bollywood film 3 Idiots? Here’s the funny space pen scene from it.

True story or not, this scene propones the folly of complex solutions to simple problems. How many times have we caught ourselves inventing space pens?

Chil­dren we once were, grow­ing up was largely about maturing psychologically into adults. Respon­si­bility, paying the bills, getting things done and various complexities we call adult­hood. To come of age was to lose our tantrums, silli­ness and innocence. Hence started the displacement of our childly minds.

The artless mind of a child is our great­est gift. As embryos in our moth­ers, our heart is the first organ to develop only to power the next – the seedling brain which will eventually make a quar­ter of a mil­lion new neu­rons every minute. By the age of ten, each of us would have made bil­lions and bil­lions of neural con­nec­tions. It is a super­charged engine for learn­ing and cre­ativ­ity. Yet by adult­hood we would have displaced most of this creativity. The adult mind thinks too much. Its thoughts too influ­enced by knowl­edge. We must regain the ability to think like kids again.

Quora is a knowledgeable community. Admist the clever answers one often finds over­thinking and com­pli­cation from people triyng to look smart. How would you cut a pizza into 11 pieces?

The pop­u­lar answers to the ques­tion involved cal­cu­la­tions with com­passes, con­cen­tric cir­cles, Pythagorean the­o­rem and square roots until someone suggested a solution using strings, something not hard to find in a kitchen. I had no idea what a con­cen­tric cir­cle is, let alone pizza cooks. And who keeps com­passes in a kitchen?

The simple string solution involves first cir­cling then cutting a string around the pizza’s cir­cum­fer­ence. The string is then wrapped eleven times around one’s thumb and index finger until one gets eleven equal divisions by trial and error. The divisions are then marked. Cir­cle the string around the pizza again and cut from center to the markings. What simplicity! The answer soon became a rated as best source.

Con­jur­ing math­e­mat­i­cal mumbo jumbo may make one look smart. To be truly cre­ative one needs to be able to lib­er­ate the mind from accumulated grown-up banality. Only then the child mind re-emerges.

Answer to the numbers question

The ques­tion has noth­ing to do with math­e­mat­ics. Look for the closed loops or shapes in each num­ber and count them. In 0, 6, 8 and 9. 8 has two of them. 2581 has two. The answer is 2.

First published in my old website and featured on Lifehacker.