Blog Post #2: Friends Forever

Dear Readers,

This past week was so busy, with many colleagues and friends generously arranging all sorts of surprises for my birthday and my wife’s birthday too, that I’m only finally getting a chance now to put together this second blog post! Since lots of people very kindly thought of me–just as you are doing when you visit here–this new article is dedicated to all of you, with sincere thanks from me.

Let’s start with Paul & Gill Fitzpatrick, friends who are celebrating 25 years of marriage today on 20.06.2017. I’ve got a sneaky little Math surprise with a nice twist for Paul & Gill. I’ll include the digit 2 for a great couple, and I’ll include it 3 times because 3 is my favourite number nowadays. I’ll also include the digits 9, 3, 1, 1 because their house number is 93 and mine is 11.

Silver Wedding Anniversary Math Surprise for Paul & Gill!!

Feel free to use a calculator to figure out 3x3x2229113.


The result 20062017 is perfect to wish Paul & Gill a very happy anniversary on 20.06.2017, today!


Photo from a school Christmas party in 2011. James Pitts is on the right of the screen.

The name’s Pitts, James Pitts!

James Pitts is a wonderful teacher colleague of mine, and he also possesses special talents for composing and singing poems and songs, some of them inspired by the works of the late, great Scottish poet Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns (1759-1796). Here is the witty poem that James composed for my birthday last week, and you can listen to James singing it by clicking on the audio file on the right of the home page.

An old acquaintance ne’er forgot is a man we love to know,

Who’s known to all throughout the school by the name of Mr. Mo,

From Scottish start to Chinese heart to Belgian soil and home

And to us came then one of the kindest men whom I have ever known.

His gift for tricks with arithmetics meant the brightest of careers,

He had number lines and addition signs growing out of both his ears,

He could multiply right to the sky, it was plain for all to see,

And soon everyone knew through all Waterloo that his favourite number was three.

But his gift for this – all this math gee-whiz – is not where all his talent lies,

For however great this skill, yet greater still is his gift for choosing ties,

From polka dots to purple spots to signs from around the globe,

Diversity is no worse to see than in Mr. Mo’s wardrobe.

But another touch that will be missed much is the way he made kids stars,

With fun and games, he gave them hero names, which would make them smile for hours,

With things like this – just the way he is – he’d make their faces shine,

With a puzzle or five bring the class alive, give them such a memorable time.

We remember him no less for his love of chess and his assemblies that sent us berserk,

If you watched him munch through his huge healthy lunch

you would see a great mind at work,

With video clips and superman snips, he’d make a powerpoint full of riddle and rhyme,

And with so much stuff, far more than enough, assemblies always ran out of time.

Now one such riddle featured Eric Liddell, a Scotsman close to his heart,

And a famous race when he fell on his face as he tripped quite near the start,

And in that clip Paul chose, the Scotsman rose, and got up once more to run,

He left behind his fall, overtook them all, looked on, kept on going, and won!

For “those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” indeed,

“Mount up with wings like eagles”, the words we heard the Scotsman read,

“They’ll run and not grow weary,” yes, “they’ll walk and not grow faint”, Isaiah 40:31

So let’s raise good cheer for this Scotsman here, who brought such joy and ne’er complaint.

“Mount up with wings like eagles”–from Isaiah 40:31


Patrick & Roberta, 1002 ‘thank you’s’!!

To Patrick & Roberta Santana, friends who helped me to improve the layout of this site, I owe at least 1000 ‘thank you’s’, and so I’ll make it 1002, as that’s a multiple of my favourite number, 3!!

Thanks To All My Students

In addition to receiving lots of lovely cards, I was also surprised by a gigantic picture of a chess board, made by a class of 6-7-year-olds at school.

This happy scene is posted with the special permission of the children’s parents.

Congratulations if you figured out that the total number of pieces and pawns remaining on the pictured chess board is (4×8)-2, which makes 30, just 2 less than at the start of a game (because of the 2 black pawns which have been captured already).

Chess Puzzle by Paul Morphy (not Paul Mo!)

It’s White to move and force checkmate in a mere 2 moves!

“I think I’ve got it…”

Solution to Morphy’s Mate In 2 Puzzle

White forces checkmate with 1 Ra6!! bxa6 (or if Black moves the bishop, then White plays 2 Rxa7#) 2 b7# checkmate! 

Cute Cup Math Puzzle

To the lovely lady who gave me the pictured cup, I sent the following puzzle…

If the total capacity of three identical cups is just 1ml less than a litre, then what is the total capacity of 007 such cups!? 

Cute Cup Math Puzzle Solution

The total capacity of three cups is 999ml, and so each cup has a capacity of 333ml. Therefore, the total capacity for 7 cups is 333×7=2331ml, or 2.331 litres.

Coffee Joke

Q: Why did Paul not allow Jenny to make him a cup of coffee!?

A: Because in the Bible it says “He-brews”!!

Birthdays Brainteaser

Two of my best friends who have birthdays in June are Elaine Gillings from Edinburgh, and Professor Hans Moors, a retired former lecturer of statistics who used to work at the University of Tilburg in The Netherlands.

Hans with his wife, Heleen, and my son, Michael, on 30 December 2016.

Each year, there is one particular day near the end of June when I can correctly say, “Hans’ birthday was the day before yesterday, and Elaine’s birthday is the day after tomorrow.”

Furthermore, if I multiply Hans’ day number by Elaine’s day number, the product ends with the digit 1 on the right.

Your brainteaser challenge is to discover the exact days in June when Hans and Elaine have their birthdays.


Solution to the Birthdays Brainteaser

Using the information given regarding the particular day when I can make the special statement about Hans’ and Elaine’s birthdays, we can deduce that Hans’ birthday occurs 4 days before Elaine’s birthday, because the day before yesterday is 4 days before the day after tomorrow. The fact that the product of their day numbers ends with a digit 1 is also crucial. The only suitable day numbers near the end of June are June 23 and June 27: 23×27=621, ending with a digit 1.

Summary: Hans’ birthday is indeed June 23, and Elaine’s birthday is June 27. Happy birthday to them both, very soon, and to everyone whose birthday is around this time.

With lots of love, Paul Motwani=Mr. Mo xxx…

Author: Paul A. Motwani

My name is Paul Motwani, but my colleagues, my students and their parents mostly call me "Mr. Mo"! My middle initial, A, stands for Anthony, because I was born on the official feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of miracles and of lost souls. I love teaching Mathematics and Chess, and giving fun-packed talks and shows in schools and clubs. The popular ingredients of Math, Chess, Mystery and Magic are my "Fantastic Four", and I give prizes too! I am an International Chess Grandmaster, and (loooooong ago!) I was the World Under-17 Champion. I am the author of five published chess books and hundreds of newspaper articles. I live with my wonderful wife and son in Belgium. I also love music, movies and puzzles. I blog at My e-mail address is You can find me on Facebook, too.

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