16 Apr 2015

Vintage Arab Maths Questions


Everybody is talking about the maths puzzle from Singapore which got people discussing the question of Cheryl’s birthday. If you liked solving the puzzle, below are some vintage Arab maths questions, taken from textbooks from the Saddam and Gaddafi era. We hope you enjoy solving them.

Problem 1 from Iraq.

There are five thieves who have 100 gold coins. They want to divide the coins among themselves but not all of them participated in all five robberies. Four of them participated in four of the robberies, three of them participated in three, and so on. How should they divide the coins fairly amongst themselves?


Answer: There is no crime in Saddam’s Iraq and this situation will never arise.

Problem 2 from Syria.

There are three prisoners in jail, one of them tells the truth and the other two lie. The inspector wants to find out which one is telling the truth, how would he go about it? Assume that torture is not allowed for this exercise.

Answer: All prisoners will tell the truth if commanded by Comrade President Assad.

Problem 3 from Libya.

In the imperialist West, 51% of voters can rule over the other 49%, causing a situation of extreme inequality and injustice as a result of flawed elections. What percentage of voting would guarantee fairness and equality? Calculators are not allowed.

Answer: “Plebiscites are a fraud against democracy. Those who vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ do not, in fact, express their free will but, rather, are silenced by the modern conception of democracy as they are not allowed to say more than ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Long live brother Gaddafi.” To be quoted accurately from the Green Book.

Problem 4 from Saudi Arabia.

Apples are falling from the tree at a variable rate. There are 33 apples left. The first day one apple falls, the second day two apples fall, and so one. When will the last apple fall from the tree?

Answer: It will fall when God wills it, inshallah.

Problem 5 from Qatar.

A train leaves the station at 10:40 in the morning, travelling at 60 kmh. Another train leaves the other station at 10:50 travelling at 80 kmh. When will the two trains meet, if the stations are 300km apart?

Answer: Everyone in Qatar is rich enough to have several cars, thanks to the generosity of God and there is no need for trains.

Problem 6 from Lebanon.

Electricity from the government is charged at 100LL per unit. Electricity from the generator is charged at 500LL per unit. If you get 18 hours of electricity a day from the government and 6 from the generator and you use 20 units a day, what will your total bill be?

Answer: There’s no way you’re getting 18 hours of electricity a day from the government.

Problem 7 from Egypt.

Three Egyptians walk into a chicken shop, each wants to buy one chicken. Unfortunately, the shop has only two chickens. The shopkeeper needs to decide which two customers he must sell the chicken to according to which is the best customer. The first buys two chickens every three weeks, the second, three chickens every four weeks, and the third, four chickens every five weeks. Who will not get a chicken?

Answer. President Mubarak’s transition towards a full free market economy will guarantee that everyone in Egypt gets a chicken.

Problem 8 from Yemen.

A man has two sons and one piece of land. He wants to divide the land fairly between the two. The land is triangular in shape, with a 3, 4, 5 proportions between the sides. How would he divide the land? Use a ruler.

Answer: The brothers must maintain unity and work the land together, like our beloved ruler President Ali Abdullah Saleh has guaranteed the unity of Yemen.




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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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