Fun Brain Teasers for Palo Alto Kids

The Basics of Brain Teasers

Brain teasers are a fun way to spend time and work out your mind, kind of like what you do at Mathnasium! What exactly are brain teasers, though? Brain teasers are  tough riddles, which sometimes involve wordplay or numbers, and always involve logic and great amount of thinking!

These brain teasers have been puzzling and entertaining people for many years. In fact, Palo Alto parents and kids have probably heard about and even

solved several brain teasers already. Any question that requires using your knowledge of facts and logic, and a great amount of creativity and problem-solving, can be considered a brain teaser.

For example, try to solve the brain teaser below (you might already be familiar with this one):

You are a contestant on a game show. The game is very simple. There are three doors: door #1, door #2, and door #3. Behind one door is a million dollars. The other two doors contain worthless joke prizes.

All you have to do is pick which door you want to open, and you get whatever is behind it. But you only get to open one door. By simple math, then, you obviously have a 1 in 3 chance of picking the correct door and becoming an instant millionaire.

You pick a door. As soon as you tell the game show host what door you want to open, he stops and says, “Okay, you’ve made your choice. Now, I’m going to do what we always do here on this show. I’m going to open one of the other two doors for you that I know has a booby prize.” And he does so.

Then he asks, “Okay, now, would you like to stay with your original guess, or would you like to switch to the other door that’s still closed? You only get one shot, so do you want to stay with your original choice, or switch?”

Is there any compelling reason to switch doors if you want to win the million dollars?

Do you know the answer? Check the solution here:

Brain teasers are hard, but with practice and determination, you will become a better and faster problem solver, which will not only improve your math skills, but help you become a stronger thinker in general.

How to Solve Them

To solve a tough brain teaser, try these steps:

1. Understand the question and gather all the facts you are given.

2. Plan. What strategies will help you solve the problem: should you draw a picture, find a pattern, make a list, or use numbers?

3. Solve! Use your chosen strategy and work to find a solution.

4. Look Back. Does your answer make sense? Is your solution the simplest way to answer the problem, or can you come up with a better way to solve it?

Once you go through these steps, you’re sure to have an elegant solution to any brain teaser. Try out this fun brain teaser from Khan Academy to test out these steps and practice your skills. Make sure to think long and hard before watching the answer, and don’t forget to have fun!

Liar/Truth-teller Brain Teaser

Here’s how to get correct advice when one person is telling the truth, the other is lying, and you don’t know who is who!

Learn more about Math Tutoring and Mathnasium of Palo Alto-Menlo Park (and find more fun problems) —


Draw in 4 Dimensions!

Dimensions. Taken from

what Dimensions do you Know?

How many dimensions do you think exist? One? Seven? Infinity? There may be infinite dimensions, we just haven’t discovered them yet. What are the different dimensions we do know about and experience in every day life? The first dimension is just a simple line, while the second dimension is a square or a circle or any shape that you can draw on a piece of paper, as these can sit on a flat plane. The third dimension is anything that has volume. That means that your computer, the food that  you eat, and even you are a three dimensional figure!


To learn more about math and how it can be used every day, visit us at

What About Four Dimensions?

But what does this have to do with drawing in four dimensions? Though most of our world is in two or three dimensions, scientists and mathematicians have also been studying the fourth dimension for hundreds of years. A square is a two dimensional figure, a cube is a three dimensional figure, and the equivalent of these shapes in four dimensions is called a tesseract. When you move a square up or down, you get a cube, and when you move a cube along another dimension, your result is a tesseract!

This might be confusing…









Continue reading

Fun Number Tricks

Number tricks and Math

math tricks

Although some children might be reluctant to believe it, math can be fun! There are many number tricks that seem unusual, but are actually fun and surprising! For example, you can figure out someone’s exact age by asking them to choose a number between 2 and 9. Here are the steps!


  1. Choose a number between 2 and 9
  2. Multiply your number by 2
  3. Add 5 to your number
  4. Multiply the number by 50
  5. If you had your birthday already this year, add 1,759 to your total. If you haven’t have your birthday this year, add 1,762
  6. Subtract the year you were born from the number ( you should now have a three digit number)
  7. The first digit should be the number you chose, and the next two digits should be your age

There are many other fun tricks like this. Next time you want to trick you child, try this fun math trick! This guy teaches how to do this trick with playing cards:

You can also do more fun tricks with your child through this website

These fun number games are not only fun and engaging, but also a  good way for your child to practice his or her math skills

Learn more about Math Tutoring and Mathnasium of Palo Alto-Menlo Park (and find more fun problems) —

Doin’ Math with CREAM Ice Cream Sandwiches in Palo Alto

Ice Cream Sandwich Store

ice cream sandwich

Recently, the new ice cream sandwich place, CREAM (Cookies Rule Everything Around Me), opened on University Avenue in Palo Alto. The place is a huge hit, and there is always a line outside the door. Although the wait may be long, it is definitely worth it! Not only do you get a yummy ice cream sandwich, but it is a great opportunity for your child to do more math.

Math for 2nd – 3rd graders

  • If each ice cream sandwich costs $2.50 and you want to buy 3 ice cream sandwiches, how much  money do you need?
  • There are 20 ice cream flavors at CREAM and 10 different types of cookies. How much more ice cream flavors are there than cookie types?
  • There are 6 people in front of you, waiting in line, and there is only one worker at CREAM. If the worker can make 1 ice cream sandwich per minute and every person in front of you is only planning on ordering one sandwich. How long do you have to wait until it is your turn to order an ice cream sandwich?

Continue reading

Easy math trick your Palo Alto kids will love: How to add the numbers from 1 to n

A classic math trick for classy Palo Alto families: How to quickly add up the numbers from 1 to n

Everyone in Palo Alto loves a quick and easy tip that will wow the people they’re with. Whether you use this trick to impress your math-impaired friends or to give your kids the impression that you’re a math speed demon, you’ll love the reaction you get.

Here’s the idea. Take the example of adding the numbers from 1 to 100. You could start by adding 1 + 2 = 3, + 3 = 6, + 4 = 10, and so on, up ’til + 100. This is a perfectly respectable way to add this up, given you have the patience of a sloth. How about looking at the numbers a different way? Instead, try pairing up numbers on either side of the super ultra long addition problem.

Knowing that (1 + 100) = 101, make a bunch more 101 pairs– (2 + 99), (3 + 98), (4 + 97) all equal 101. Now you’ve just got to recognize that folding 100 numbers in half gives you 50 numbers on either side. Therefore, there are 50 pairs of 101.
math trick math tip Palo Alto

So now you’ve broken down (1 + 2 + 3 … + 99 + 100) to a mere 101 x 50. How easy is that? And you can do the same thing given the problem of adding all the numbers from 1 to 500, or 1 to 2,000… You get the idea.

Now flee, my apprentices! The vast applications of this immensely impressive math trick await you.

Continue reading

Math ‘n Music in Palo Alto

Can the “Mozart Effect” increase your Palo Alto child with math? 


The term “Mozart Effect”has been used since 1991 when a journalist stated that babies and children who listen to Mozart will become smarter. Since then, scientists were able to prove that Mozart will not making children smarter, but it can help improve a child’s ability to manipulate shapes.

In 2008, a study was done with 8,000 children. The children either listened to ten minutes of Mozart, a discussion of the experiment being held, or three popular pop songs. After, all the children participated in an activity in which they had to predict origami shapes. At the end, the conductor concluded that music did help increase the children’s ability to predict the origami shapes, but to his dismay, the children who listened to the pop songs were able to predict the shapes the best. After analyzing the data, the conductor concluded that listening to any music will not increase a child’s intelligence level, but can help keep the child awake and alert when doing math or any other homework.

For more information check out this article:

Is music beneficial for my Palo Alto child?

After much research about the Mozart Effect, studies have shown that although listening to Mozart will not necessarily make one smarter, learning to play an instrument may increase IQ and help develop certain parts of the brain.  If your child ever wants to try something new and fun, they should try learning to play a new instrument. Not only is it fun, but it is also a great way to work their brain.


Learn more about Math Tutoring and Mathnasium of Palo Alto-Menlo Park (and find more fun problems) —


Mathin’ with Mentos in Silicon Valley

Like Mentos? By now you should know that you can do math with anything, including these colorful candies! If you are struggling and need to brush up on your math skills, or just want to have some fun while enjoying your treat, try out these fun problems! Pick up a package from the closest Palo Alto or Menlo Park CVS or Walgreens, and get ready to have fun with Mentos!

  • Mentos come in all different packages, but for these problems we’ll use the awesome colorful ones shown in the picture. If each package has 7 fruity flavors (the flavors are watermelon, cherry, orange, raspberry, grape,  pineapple, and strawberry) , and there are two pieces of each flavor, how many Mentos are there altogether? Answer: 14
  • If you pour all the Mentos in a bowl and pick one at random (close your eyes!), what are your chances of picking a cherry Mento or a grape Mento? Make sure to simplify! Answer: 2/7
  • Let’s say you pick a cherry Mento… and eat it! How many Mentos do you have left? Using this information, what is the probability of picking a pineapple Mento at random? Answer 13; 2/13
  • Now, if you haven’t finished all your Mentos yet, look at the packaging: how much does a package of Mentos weigh? If .4 oz of the package is sugar, what percentage of the Mentos package is sugar? Answer: 1.32 oz, 30.3%

We hope you had fun eating your Mentos and completing these problems! Enjoy your summer, make sure not to get a stomach ache from eating too many Mentos, and use this time to improve on your math skills!

Learn more about Math Tutoring and Mathnasium of Palo Alto-Menlo Park (and find more fun problems) —


Palo Alto/Menlo Park Parents: Get your kids excited about math with reading Math Curse!

“DID YOU ever wake up to one of those days where everything is a problem? You have 10 things to do, but only 30 minutes until your bus leaves. Is there enough time? You have 3 shirts and 2 pairs of pants. Can you make 1 good outfit? Then you start to wonder: Why does everything have to be such a problem? Why do 2 apples always have to be added to 5 oranges? Why do 4 kids always have to divide 12 marbles? Why can’t you just keep 10 cookies without someone taking 3 away? Why? Because you’re the victim of Math Curse. That’s why. But don’t despair. This is one girl’s story of how that curse can be broken.”


That’s what it says on the back of John Scieszka’s 20 year old picture book Math Curse, one of the most beautifully illustrated and memorable children’s books of the generation.

“As close to genius as one gets in a picture book.”–USA Today

If you’re looking for a way to show your kids how math can be fun and confusing and EVERYWHERE at once, Math Curse is your book. With Jon Scieszka’s brilliant story and Lane Smith’s timeless images, this book will make your kid find a new-found interest in math you never dreamed existed.

Attention all Palo Alto/Menlo Park kids! Want to win a million dollars?

Do you want a million dollars?

Calling all students in Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, San Carlos, and Belmont…


The Beal Prize is a competition funded by Andrew Beal, a prominent banker who is also a mathematics enthusiast. Beal states than anyone who can provide a legitimate proof of, or a counterexample to, the Beal Conjecture published in 1997 will become a millionaire!

The Beal Conjecture states:

“If Ax +By = Cz , where A, B, C, x, y and z are positive integers and x, y and z are all greater than 2, then A, B and C must have a common prime factor.”

Is it true? Is it false? How do you know?

Next time your buddy is doing math homework and says “When am I ever going to use this?” just do us a favor (and them too!) and show them this!