Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Diophantus Riddle

In my algebra class we are currently learning how to translate real-life situations into algebraic expressions and equations.  To keep things lively we like to look at fascinating stories or puzzles.  Next week we’re trying this one:

‘Here lies Diophantus,’ the wonder behold.

Through art algebraic, the stone tells how old:

‘God gave him his boyhood one-sixth of his life,

One twelfth more as youth while whiskers grew rife;

And then yet one-seventh ere marriage begun;

In five years there came a bouncing new son.

Alas, the dear child of master and sage

After attaining half the measure of his father’s life chill fate took him.

After consoling his fate by the science of numbers for four years, he ended his life.’

After reading the riddle, can you figure out how old Diophantus was when he died?  Better yet, do some quick research to find out who he was and if this riddle about him is true.

Weisstein, Eric W. “Diophantus’s Riddle.” From MathWorld–A Wolfram Web Resource. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/DiophantussRiddle.html