Simple Maths Puzzle On Radio 4 Has Left Everyone Completely Stumped

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The BBC’s Today Show on Radio Four has left listeners scratching their heads after launching a brand new mathematical puzzle feature.

Too many people are painfully frightened of maths, perhaps harbouring negative memories of strict teachers and half finished exam papers. A 2012 study even found that, for some people, merely anticipating having to do maths actually frazzles the same parts of the brain that pain does. Ouch.

However, improving your maths confidence at any age is totally doable, and can even be really enjoyable, as shown through the new Puzzle for the Day. This is a joint initiative between Radio 4 and GCHQ and requires listeners to unleash their inner code breaker.

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The Puzzle

The first brainteaser in the series to unite Radio 4 listeners in frustration is as follows:

First, take the digits 1,2,3 all the way up to 9 in numerical order.

Put either a plus sign, minus sign or neither between the digits in order to make a sum that adds up to 100.

For instance, one way to achieve this would be 1+2+34-5+67-8+9=100. Then work out the fewest number of pluses and minuses needed in order to achieve this.

Not to pile on the pressure or anything, but Year 6 pupils at Parkgate Primary in Cheshire have got this down to four, so yeah…

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Frustratingly, listeners won’t find out the answer until tomorrow morning at 6am, when the sum with the fewest number of pluses and minuses will be published on the Today website.

In the mean-(mode and median…)-time, amateur mathematicians are taking to Twitter to puzzle things out together.

This new Radio Four feature is already helping to demystify maths, and is also a pretty great excuse to get competitive while (hopefully) looking like a smarty pants.

Let us know how you get on!


Julia Banim

Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications. When not Lad-ing about, she enjoys cooking, reading and trying not to fall over in Yoga.