Can You Solve These Animated Brain Teasers from TED-Ed?

Zom­bies, alien over­lords, sharks, a mad dictator…math is a dan­ger­ous propo­si­tion in the hands of TED Ed script writer Alex Gendler.

The recre­ation­al math­e­mat­ics puz­zles he retro­fits for TED’s edu­ca­tion­al ini­tia­tive have been around for hun­dreds, even thou­sands of years. In the past, sto­ry­lines tend­ed to rely on bias­es 21st-cen­tu­ry puz­zle solvers would find objec­tion­able. As math­e­mati­cian David Singmas­ter told Sci­ence News:

One must be a lit­tle care­ful with some of these prob­lems, as past cul­tures were often bla­tant­ly sex­ist or racist. But such prob­lems also show what the cul­ture was like.… The riv­er cross­ing prob­lem of the jeal­ous hus­bands is quite sex­ist and trans­forms into mas­ters and ser­vants, which is clas­sist, then into mis­sion­ar­ies and can­ni­bals, which is racist. With such prob­lems, you can offend every­body!

Gendler’s updates, ani­mat­ed by Artrake stu­dio, derive their nar­ra­tive urgency from the sort of crowd pleas­ing sci fi predica­ments that fuel sum­mer block­busters.

And for­tu­nate­ly for those of us whose brains are per­ma­nent­ly stuck in beach mode, he nev­er fails to explain how the char­ac­ters pre­vail, out­wit­ting or out­run­ning the afore­men­tioned zom­bies, aliens, sharks, and mad dic­ta­tor.

(No wor­ries if you’re deter­mined to find the solu­tion on your own. Gendler gives plen­ty of fair warn­ing before each reveal.)

Put your brain in gear, pull the skull-embossed lever, and remem­ber, team­work — and induc­tive log­ic — car­ry the day!

The pris­on­er hat rid­dle, above, hinges on a hier­ar­chy of beliefs and the alien overlord’s will­ing­ness to give its nine cap­tives a few min­utes to come up with a game plan.

Go deep­er into this age old puz­zle by view­ing the full les­son.

Gendler’s spin on the green-eyed log­ic puz­zle, above, con­tains two brain teasers, one for the hive mind, and one for an indi­vid­ual act­ing alone, with a strat­e­gy culled from philoso­pher David Lewis’ Com­mon Knowl­edge play­book. Here’s the full les­son.

Rar­ing for more? You’ll find a playlist of TED-Ed puz­zles by Gendler and oth­ers here. The full les­son for the bridge prob­lem at the top of the post is here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Math Cours­es 

200 Free Text­books: A Meta Col­lec­tion 

Dan­ger­ous Knowl­edge: 4 Bril­liant Math­e­mati­cians & Their Drift to Insan­i­ty

Ayun Hal­l­i­day, author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine, will be lead­ing a free col­lab­o­ra­tive zine work­shop  at the Glue­stick Fest in Indi­anapo­lis Sat­ur­day, July 9. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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