Recently I wrote a post about a problem that took me three days to do, and how exploring a beautiful problem with friends is a way that ‘math people’ build community.
These questions have an evil twin–the annoying problem.
The annoying problem often is posed by someone whose presentation is…smug. They know the answer and you don’t. The problem makes you curious, but when you learn the answer, it feels cheap. Groans follow. Riddles can have this quality.
My friend Josh Thurbee uses these problems as a tool to teach perseverance. Josh is too charming to be smug, but I have grinded my teeth at him once or twice nevertheless.