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Penny Piles (Posted on 2008-04-09) Difficulty: 3 of 5
Susan gave her nephew a number of pennies, as well as a mathematical challenge: to figure out how many ways there were of dividing the pennies into three piles. The pennies are indistinguishable, so the identity of the pennies doesn't matter, nor does the order of the piles. For example, if there had been nine pennies, the piles could have been arranged in any of seven ways: 1+1+7, 1+2+6, 1+3+5, 1+4+4, 2+2+5, 2+3+4, 3+3+3.

There were actually more pennies than this, and in fact, the number of ways was a four-digit number.

However, the nephew misunderstood the instructions. He thought that no two of the piles could be equal, and so came up with a smaller number. For example, if the number of pennies were nine, as above, only three of the arrangements into piles consisted of unique sizes: 1+2+6, 1+3+5, 2+3+4, and the nephew would have reported that, incorrectly.

As mentioned the actual number of ways was a four-digit number. The number reported by the nephew was also a four-digit number, and as a result of his misunderstanding, the only difference between his reported number and Susan's expected answer was that the middle two digits were reversed.

How many pennies did Susan give to her nephew?

See The Solution Submitted by Charlie    
Rating: 3.0000 (2 votes)

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Note on posted solution | Comment 4 of 6 |
First I misspelled Sloane as Sloan. Second, the link is to a result page for the beginning of the sequence rather than for the specific sequence A001399. While A001399 is shown at the top of that link, other sequences starting that way are also shown below it. The link in this comment is what should have been included.
  Posted by Charlie on 2008-04-13 12:21:41
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