How many socks make a pair - solution

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How many socks make a pair?

socks

Unfortunately I am lazy and disorganised. One symptom of this is that I can never be bothered to fold up my socks in pairs when they come out of the wash. I just chuck them in the drawer. Another symptom is that I always wake up late for work and end up having to rush. Given that I only have white and black socks, how many socks do I have to grab out of my drawer at random to make sure the collection I've grabbed contains a matching pair?

Solution

I need to grab three socks. Either they are all the same colour, or two of them are white and one black, or vice versa. In each case I have a matching pair.

This puzzle is part of the Hands-on risk and probability show, an interactive event culminating in Who Wants to be a Mathionaire? workshop sessions, which you can book to perform at your school. The puzzle appeared in the book How any socks make a pair? by Rob Eastaway.


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For some challenging mathematical puzzles, see the NRICH puzzles from this month or last month.