So this was problem 5 from hard to solve brain teasers. I am working through the book and this problem is representative of about 60-70% of the problems which are just annoying. This would not be a hard problem in a 6th or 7th grade algebra course. I am fairly sure the book is targeted at adults – so are these problems hard because you are supposed to not remember junior high? Ugh.

The problem:

“Two cars start from point A at the same time and drive around a circuit more than one mile in length. While they are driving laps around the circuit, each car must maintain a steady speed. SInce one car is faster than the other, one car will pass the other at certain points. The first pass occurs 150 yards from point A.

At what distance from A will one car pass the other again?”

Irregular CIrcuit

The thing I don’t like about this problem is it really is just a story problem where you just get the answer reading it. How? Because the problem lacks enough information to have any other way to set it up. You either get that starting at 0 and ending at A away from 0 means the second pass will be 2A away from the origin as long as the track is longer than 4A in length.

This could be turned into an interesting problem if the speed around the track was not constant in such a way that for the Nth lap A would be in the lead, for the Mth B would be in the lead. Then knowing who wins the race would require knowing the track length. If that was not given but was instead easily calculable the way to solve the problem would not jump out so much. I will have to try and write up a version like that for the book.

Update: Interesting – the problem directly before this one in the book is the same problem class I was proposing to modify this too. I wonder if the author was thinking that when clustering these problems of if that was just on my mind since I just solved that problem two hours ago or so. Huh.