Recently ran across a pointer to this "mind-reader" application. It's obvious how it works, which leads to some interesting recreational math in the area of how you can tell what divides into what.

The mind-reader thing is obvious; if you take any two-digit number, add the digits together, and subtract them from the original number, the result is divisible by 9. For example:

  • 73 - (7 + 3) = 63
  • 22 - (2 + 2) = 18
  • 56 - (5 + 6) = 45

Almost like magic, isn't it? The whole area of divisibility leads to lots of mathemagical fun. Most people know that you can check whether a number is divisible by 3 just by adding up its digits. For example, consider 5543; 5+5+4+3 is 17, which isn't divisible by 3, so 5543 isn't either. But 5544 is. I seem to remember learning this in tenth grade or thereabouts.

If you think about it, the same is true of 9 (which is related to why the puzzle mentioned above works). And if you really scrunch up your forehead and think about it (this happened to me in a fit of insomnia), in a base-X numbering system, X - 1 and anything that divides it will have this property; this works for 9 and 3 in our base-10 system.

So for hexadecimal numbers, this is true of 15 ("F"), 5, and 3. And if anyone were demented enough to adopt a base-13 numbering system, it would be true of 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12.

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February 14, 2003
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