My wife showed me a homework problem of a friend’s son in China that he could not solve, and his mother also could not solve. I thought it was quite an interesting problem, so I thought I would share.

I do not have an acceptable diagram (which admittedly would make the problem much easier to digest), so I will be as precise as possible in describing the problem. Suppose that you have a triangle with a right angle at vertex . The length of the side is equal to 14. Construct squares (read counter-clockwise) on side and on side . Draw the line from vertex to the vertex of square , and let be the intersection of the line segment and . Suppose further that the line segment is parallel to . What is the area of the quadrilateral ?

We let denote the side length of , denote the side length of , so that . Put for the length of . Since and are parallel, it follows that . Therefore the desired area is given by (the square brackets denote the area of the polygon with the given vertices), or

This problem is nice because it requires adroit use of many different geometric facts, and once the proper principles are applied, the solution is beautiful and elegant. Hard to imagine an 11 year old being able to do this regularly though!

Edit: in the original post there was an error where I forgot to divide by 2 in the penultimate step. Silly mistake!

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leaf.You may have missed a factor of 1/2 in the second expression of your final answer. Is this on the standard curriculum or a problem from outside of class? It’s hard to tell…

prayersontestsPost authorYes I did in fact miss a factor of 2. Thank you for pointing it out!

And I have no idea if this is standard curriculum or not. The parent of the child couldn’t solve the problem so she asked social media for help, and it eventually got to me.