New School Lockers
Date: 01/28/2001 at 13:35:55 From: Michael Lopez Subject: New School Lockers A new school is being opened. The school has exactly 1000 lockers and 1000 students. On the first day of school, the students meet outside the building and agree on the following plan: the first student will enter the school and will open all of the lockers. The second student will enter and close every locker with an even number. The third student will then "reverse" every third locker; that is, if the locker is closed, he will open it; if it is open, he will close it. The fourth student will then "reverse" every fourth locker, and so on until all 1000 students in turn have entered the building and "reversed" the proper lockers. Which lockers will finally remain open? 1. For a particular locker, how many times was it touched? 2. How many lockers, and which ones, were touched exactly twice? 3. Which locker was touched the most? A picture must be drawn of a table and or graph. By doing a search of your Web site, we were able to find the answer to the problem: Opening and Closing 1000 Lockers http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/atsang.3.16.97.html I was curious to know what level of math this type of question is - is it middle school, high school, or college? The one question that remained unanswered was which locker was touched the most. If you or your team has time to return that answer, that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Date: 01/29/2001 at 12:12:32 From: Doctor Schwa Subject: Re: New School Lockers Your question about the math level of this problem is a good one. In middle school, I'd expect people to be able to *get* the answers after an hour or two of work looking for patterns. By high school, I'd expect people to be able to *prove* the answers after getting them. In college, I'd expect a math major to already *know* the answer, or at most have to work on it for a few minutes to figure out the pattern and then prove it. Which locker is touched the most? Each locker is touched once for each factor the number has. For instance, locker number 10 is touched four times: by persons numbers 1, 2, 5, and 10. So, what we need to figure out is what number from 1 to 1000 has the most factors. One clever shortcut for counting the number of factors of a number is to look at its prime factorization. For instance, since 1000 = 2^3 * 5^3, any factor of 1000 has to have 2^0, 2^1, 2^2, or 2^3 in it (4 choices), and 5^0, 5^1, 5^2, or 5^3 in it (4 choices), and therefore it has 4*4 = 16 factors. There is, unfortunately, no nice way to find the best number with a simple formula, but now at least you can quickly find how many factors a number has. If a number is made up of just one factor, 2^9 has 10 factors, and that's the most. If a number is made up of two factors, 2^a * 3^b, well, 2^5 * 3^3 has (5+1) * (3+1) = 24 factors, and I think that's the most. If a number is made of three factors, 2^a * 3^b * 5^c, well, 2^4 * 3^2 * 5 might be pretty promising (30 factors?), or maybe 2^2 * 3^2 * 5^2 (27 factors, not as good)... maybe a little more experimenting will convince you of whether or not 30 is the best. And what about four factors? 2^3 * 3 * 5 * 7 would be one possibility... it has a lot of factors (32 factors?) - Doctor Schwa, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Date: 01/29/2001 at 12:33:30 From: Doctor Twe Subject: Re: New School Lockers Hi Michael - thanks for writing. I see that Dr. Schwa has already responded to your questions, but I'll add a little bit to his response. We have five "lockers" problems in our Ask Dr. Math archives, and all of them are categorized as high school level (either in discrete math, number theory, and/or puzzles), and one is also categorized in middle school puzzles. The URLs for these archives are: Word Problem Hints (discrete math - high) http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/reichel3.12.96.html Opening and Closing 1000 Lockers (discrete math, puzzles - high) http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/atsang.3.16.97.html Locker Problem (discrete math, puzzles - high) http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/boyer11.21.97.html 100 Lockers, 100 Students (puzzles - high) http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/559122.214.171.124.html 1000 Lockers (number theory, puzzles - high, puzzles - middle) http://mathforum.org/dr.math/problems/thorsheim11.6.97.html As to which locker was touched the most, as Dr. Schwa explained, the number of times a locker is touched is equal to the number of factors of the number. I ran a quick program I had previously written, and found that 840 (= 2^3 * 3 * 5 * 7) has 32 factors, the most of any number between 1 and 1000 inclusive - good work, Dr. Schwa! I hope this helps. If you have any more questions or comments, write back. - Doctor TWE, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
Search the Dr. Math Library:
Ask Dr. MathTM
© 1994- The Math Forum at NCTM. All rights reserved.