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Curious times

By David, 7 February 2019 Brainteaser

Maryam had been practising the times tables really hard, so she was on the alert for interesting patterns. On her dad’s birthday she noticed something special.

“You’re four times older than me, Dad,” she exclaimed.

Four years later, she was counting the candles on her Dad’s birthday cake when she realised something mathematical.

“You’re three times older than me,” she noted.

How old is Maryam’s dad now?

Scroll down for the answer!


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Brainteaser answer

Maryam’s dad used to be four times her age, so why isn’t that true now?

Imagine she’d said, “You’re four times older than me, Dad,” again. She’d be wrong, but we need to look at why.

Maryam is four years older than she was. If we multiply her current age by four, we get her old age times four, plus four times four. That’s 16 more than it used to be, whereas her dad is only four years older.

Four times Maryam’s current age is older than her dad. It’s older by 16 – 4 = 12 years.

To finish the question, we need to look at Maryam’s second statement. Three times her current age is exactly equal to her dad’s age.

That means Maryam is 12 years old!

If Maryam is 12, and her dad is three times older than she is, her dad must be 36.

Can you think of any other ways to solve the problem? Post them in the comments below!

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  1. We can look at it algebraically. Let’s use M and D for Maryam and Dad, respectively.

    The first statement can be written as
    -> D = 4 M

    The second statement can be written as
    -> D+4 = 3 (M+4)

    Let’s expand and simplify the second equation
    -> D+4 = 3 M + 12 [expand the brackets]
    -> D = 3 M + 8 [subtract 4 from both sides]

    We now have two equations where “D = something”, so the two somethings must equal each other.
    -> 4 M = 3 M + 8
    -> M = 8 [subtract 3 M from both sides]
    -> D = 4 M = 4 x 8 = 32

    When it is “four years later”
    -> OlderM = M + 4 = 8 + 4 = 12
    -> OlderD = 3 M = 3 x 12 = 36

  2. I did it the same was as Martin.
    Simultaneous equations are one thing from high school math that do actually come in handy!

  3. I used Martin’s method too 🙂

  4. Same 🙂

  5. Yep, after we talked about some ‘trial and error’ examples together, I pulled out the algebra …old school parent style 🙂
    And reading the text solution example didn’t make that way any easier for me, showing my age too maybe?
    Now, where’s my foot cream, I need my foot cream.


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