Blog Post #16: Cloud 99

Dear Readers,

If you’re familiar with the phrase “Up on cloud nine”–meaning being blissfully happy–then you may already be wondering what could be so good as to merit the extra 90…!

When he’s completely ecstatic about something, a witty Irish friend of mine often says, “I think I must have died and gone to Heaven”. Well, that is the remarkable story of minister and author Don Piper in his best-selling book, ‘90 Minutes in Heaven’, published by Revell in 2004 and made into a feature-length film with the same title in 2015. I very much enjoyed watching the film this past Sunday, and would highly recommend it to you. Here is a link to a short trailer: ‘90 Minutes in Heaven’ trailer, 2mins26secs.

Back in June, a lady friend of mine stated confidently that she knows she will be going to Heaven. She was really not being at all arrogant, because she also recognised and stated that she is saved by God’s love for everyone including her, you and me. She understood that it is only necessary to gratefully accept the gift and to share the good news honestly with others too.

While my son has been enjoying a holiday with friends in Spain, and my wife has been away on a business trip, combined with visiting her elderly mother in China, I have been home alone composing a sneaky Math problem which I dedicate to them!


My son Michael, when he was smaller than me!

When the total age of a couple (both in their 30s) and their son is divided by the son’s age, the result is 25. What is the total age of the couple, and how old is the son? Assume that all three people have whole number ages.


In case you’re ever feeling jaded, imagine yourself relaxing on a tropical island and having fun cracking the following code…!

If HTTP is the code for COOK, then what is the code for JADED ?


I sometimes like to play chess against my computer. Just yesterday, a younger friend of mine introduced me to a free chess app which has 100 levels on it. Not wanting to overdo things on the first day, I decided to try a sparring game on level 99!! I surprised myself by quickly reaching the following winning position with White.

How can White (to move) decisively intensify the pressure against the pinned black knight on f6?


An awkward manager won’t hire Paddy the Irishman until he passes a Math test.

The boss says: “Here is your first task; without using numbers, represent the number 9.”


Paddy says: “Without numbers? Oh, that’s easy!” He proceeds to draw three trees.

The boss asks: “Just what is that supposed to be?”…

…to which Paddy retorts: “Have you no brains? Tree and tree, plus tree makes 9.”

The boss responds: “Okay, here is your second challenge, and it’s a toughie! Use the same rules, but this time the number to make is 99.”

Paddy stares into space for a while, then picks up the trees picture that he had drawn and makes a smudge on each tree. “There ye go.”

The boss scratches his head and says: “How on earth do you get that to represent 99?”

Paddy answers instantly: “It’s obvious! Each of the trees is dirty now. So, it’s dirty tree, and dirty tree, plus dirty tree. Dat makes 99!!”



Suppose that c stands for the total age of the couple, and s stands for the age of the son. Then the total of all the ages is c+s. We were basically given that (c+s)÷s=25. So, c+s=25s, and therefore c=25s-s, which leads us to c=24s. The couple’s total age must be a multiple of 24, as all the ages are whole numbers. Also, since the couple are both in their thirties (not yet 40), their total age must be between 60 and 80. The only multiple of 24 within that range is 72=24×3. So, c=72 and s=3. (Just by the way, long ago when I was 39 and my wife was 33, our son was 3.)


We were given that HTTP is the code for COOK. Notice that each letter of the code is exactly five places further along in the English alphabet than the letter it stands for. So, the code for JADED will be O FIJI !!


The game continued with 1 Ne4

and then 1…Rxe4 (there is nothing better) 2 Bxf6!

followed by 2…Nxf6 3 Nxf6+

and Black loses the loose e4-rook to 3…Qxf6 4 Qxe4.

I will finish this article with a good quote: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth”–from Psalm 121.

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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