Painting Cube Faces Green
Date: 08/19/2003 at 18:43:32 From: Mike Subject: Combinations Mrs. Jones had some white paint and some green paint, and a bunch of wooden cubes. Her class decided to paint the cubes by making each face either solid white or green. Juan painted his cube with all six faces white. Julie painted her cube solid green. Herman painted 4 faces white and 2 faces green. How many cubes could be painted in this fashion so that each cube is different from the other? Two cubes are alike if one can be turned so that it exactly matches, color for color on each side, the other cube.
Date: 08/20/2003 at 14:27:13 From: Doctor Ian Subject: Re: Combinations Hi Mike, Interesting question. I don't think I've seen this before. The first thing that occurs to me is to break it into cases, where each case involves some number of green faces. The number of green faces can be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6, so those are the cases we have to consider. The extreme cases are the easiest. There is only one way to paint a cube so that no faces are green, or so all the faces are green: 0: 1 1: ? 2: ? 3: ? 4: ? 5: ? 6: 1 What about painting one face green? If we have two cubes with one face painted green, we know that we can always rotate one to look like the other. Do you see why? So there is only one way to paint one face green: 0: 1 1: 1 2: ? 3: ? 4: ? 5: ? 6: 1 For the same reason, there is only one way to paint 5 faces green, because that's the same as having one way to paint one face white. 0: 1 1: 1 2: ? 3: ? 4: ? 5: 1 6: 1 This, by the way, is an illustration of why mathematicians are so fond of symmetry. Anything that's true for the green faces has to be true if we switch white to green and vice versa. That's handy to know, because once we know how many ways we can have two green faces, we automatically know how many ways we can have four green faces. Anyway, we're left with the trickier cases: two faces green, and three faces green. Can we figure out a way to do this without just trying every possibility? We might be able to, if we can find a way to _describe_ how a cube is painted in a way that is independent of how it's rotated. For example, suppose we have two faces painted green. They can be touching, or they can be across from each other. This is true no matter how the cubes are oriented. (Convince yourself that this is true.) So there are just two ways to paint two faces green, and two ways to paint four faces green: 0: 1 1: 1 2: 2 3: ? 4: 2 5: 1 6: 1 I'll leave the last case for you, but you can figure it out using the same technique that I used for the pairs. Let me know if any of this wasn't clear, or if you have other questions. I hope this helps! Thanks for the question. - Doctor Ian, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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