Applied Math

Three men went into a diner, and each ordered a cup of coffee. The waitress brought the three cups of coffee and a dish with twelve lumps of sugar. Each man took an odd number of lumps of sugar, and when they had finished, there was no sugar left. How many lumps did each man take?

It requires only a few moments to recognize that the sum of three odd numbers must be odd itself. So there must be a trick somewhere, and there is.

The first man took one lump, the second man took one lump, and the third man took ten lumps. “Aha!” you will cry, “ten is not an odd number!” And then, we slyly inquire, “Do you know anyone who takes ten lumps of sugar in his coffee?”

— M.H. Greenblatt, Mathematical Entertainments, 1965