Today I gave Katie the following puzzle that I got from this Martin Gardner book

The symbols in the picture below may look like hieroglyphics, but there is meaning to them.  Continue the sequence.

ImageTry it out for yourself before reading how Katie went about it below.




Katie first started redrawing all of the symbols for herself.  To make this task easier for her, as well as to give her a hint, I told her to draw each half separately.  I thought that this would immediately give it away, but she continued to quietly draw the symbols until she got to the 6’s.

Katie: These look like cherries!

Me: Yeah, they sort of do.  What else do they look like?

Katie: Sixes.

Me: Great.  What about the other ones?

She looked at them for quite a while, until she finally pointed to the last one and proclaimed that it looked like 7’s.  She then looked some more and figured out the 3’s.  Only after that did she figure out the whole pattern.  Then she drew in the 8’s. 


I really enjoyed watching her work on this puzzle and I think that she likewise enjoyed doing it.  I actually also had fun figuring it out for myself before giving it to her.  While perhaps not the deepest of Martin Gardner’s puzzles, I think that it is a cute one that can provide amusement for all ages.

About aofradkin

I enjoy thinking about presenting mathematical concepts to young children in exciting and engaging ways.
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3 Responses to Hieroglyphics?

  1. Scott says:

    The strange thing is that the “correct” right side of each number is written with much better handwriting than the left side, which I would expect if she already knew the answer, but not if she were just copying the shape. Perhaps this is an example of muscle memory, where her hand knows how to draw the numbers, even if she doesn’t realize that they are numbers.


  2. Steve Morris says:

    Interesting puzzle. Without a knowledge of Arabic numerals, this would be impossible to solve. I started out looking for patterns, lines of symmetry, etc, but of course there are none – just the reflection of an arbitrary shape that cannot be logically deduced, unless you already know.


  3. Marrio says:

    My wife and i were playing mystery game on our I pad and one of the clues included hieroglyphs. I went to theat Internet for answers and I didn’t even read the whole article before realizing that If I cut them in half they represent a number. Either way this is really interesting, and it helped us pass that level.


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