This lovely puzzle (for upper-elementary and beyond) is from Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky’s 1895 painting “Mental Calculation. In Public School of S. A. Rachinsky.” Pat Ballew posted it on his blog On This Day in Math, in honor of the 365th day of the year.
I love the expressions on the boys’ faces. So many different ways to manifest hard thinking!
Here’s the question:
No calculator allowed. But you can talk it over with a friend, as the boys on the right are doing.
You can even use scratch paper, if you like.
Thinking About Square Numbers
And if you’d like a hint, you can figure out square numbers using this trick. Think of a square number made from rows of pennies.
Can you see how to make the next-bigger square?
Any square number, plus one more row and one more column, plus a penny for the corner, makes the next-bigger square.
So if you know that ten squared is one hundred, then:
… and so onward to your answer. If the Russian schoolboys could figure it out, then you can, too!
Simon Gregg (@Simon_Gregg) added this wonderful related puzzle for the new year: