Blog Post #81: Top of the Class, Nice Niklas!!

Dear Readers,

It is with great pleasure that I thank everyone who participated in the ‘Good Lives Global Prize Competition’ (see Blog Post #80).

Andy H. from Scotland was the very first person to reply with all the mathematical puzzles completely correct. Andy loves challenge puzzles so much that he simply wanted to enjoy them without being given a prize. So, in recognition of his excellent attitude, we have a bonus puzzle in Andy’s honour, down below.

Before then, I want to congratulate Quintijn van Heek (an A-Level Maths student of mine) and Krissy Teng (another great student at the beautiful Musica Mundi School in Waterloo, Belgium) for also solving all the mathematical puzzles. Well done, Quintijn and Krissy!

For several special reasons, the solutions that I most enjoyed seeing were from Niklas, a 22-year-old university student from Finland. Turning the clock way back to 2007, Niklas was then a young Grade 3 student of mine at my previous school in Waterloo. There, he had the nice nickname of ‘Top of the Class, Nice Niklas’! He was always a superb student, and today we can enjoy reading his very own clear, step-by-step solutions (given at the end of Blog Post #80). Niklas makes it look like ‘plain sailing’!!

He intends to buy a good book with the gift card that has already been sent to him by email. Knowing that, and also considering the following snowy photo, he’s certainly a cool guy!

When Niklas saw my email address, he remembered that, back in 2007, I told the class some true stories about the fact that the number 141 has occurred in lots and lots of ways throughout my life. Niklas has now told me about a particular whole number that has already been of special significance in his life…Let’s represent Niklas’ number by the letter N.

Your first new, fun challenge today is to figure out N, given that 141 x N ends up as a four-digit number in which the first three digits are all the same as each other, and the final digit on the right is 3.

I could alternatively have given the clue that 141+N equals the total number of squares on an 8 by 8 chessboard, remembering that, though 64 is the familiar number of unit 1 by 1 squares, the total number of squares of all possible sizes 1 by 1; 2 by 2; 3 by 3…up to 8 by 8, is actually 204.

So, N=204-141=63, Niklas’ special number. Also, 141 x 63 =8883.

It’s important to speak the _ _ _ _ _.

If you write down the missing five-letter word and then leave out the first letter (T), you get the first name of the lovely lady pictured now.

A PUZZLE ESPECIALLY FOR RUTHΒ (a good friend and former colleague who loves sneaky, fun Maths puzzles!)

Multiply the number of hours in Ruth’s birthday by Niklas’ special number (63) and divide by a happy hundred to discover the day and month of Ruth’s birthday!

Since 24 x 63/100 = 15.12, you now know that Ruth’s birthday is on 15 December. However, I’m sure you’ll all agree that she really looks very much younger than her age of 15 x the number of letters in RUTH !!


Andy is older than Niklas but younger than Ruth.

I am now thinking of two positive whole numbers whose sum is 100.

However, if I multiply my two whole numbers together, the result is the year when Andy was born.

What exactly are my two numbers, what was Andy’s birth year, and what age is Andy celebrating now in 2021?

The first clue matters because it rules out any possibility of 26 x 74 = 1924 (Andy is not turning 97 !) or 28 x 72 = 2016 (Andy is much higher than a high five!!). In between, though, we do have 27 x 73 = 1971. Sincere congratulations to Andy on turning 50 this year.

It’s time to also celebrate Niklas’ excellent solutions to the mathematical competition puzzles given in Blog Post #80, and if you peek back there…you’ll find them now!

I’ll conclude Blog Post #81 here by highly recommending a wonderful book (first published back in 2002) entitled ‘The Blessed Life, Unlocking the Rewards of Generous Living’, by Robert Morris.

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend now,

Paul Motwani 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.

3 thoughts on “Blog Post #81: Top of the Class, Nice Niklas!!”

  1. Paul!
    Thank you so much for this birthday riddle! I love it!! You are sneaky to get that picture! That was taken 5 summers ago in Israel!
    I now subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading it!
    By the way, have you seen the Queens Gambit? on Netflix?


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Ruth,
      I am so glad that you like the sneaky surprises!
      I have seen the Queen’s Gambit Netflix mini-series and enjoyed it very much!
      In Blog Post #82 coming soon, there’s going to be another sneaky surprise, this time involving you and Beth Harmon…!!
      Wishing you lots of fun,


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