This post marks the official opening of the mini-polymath2 project to solve a problem from the 2010 IMO. I have selected the fifth question (which appears to be slightly more challenging than the sixth, for a change) as the problem to focus on:
Problem. In each of six boxes there is initially one coin. There are two types of operation allowed:
- Type 1: Choose a nonempty box with . Remove one coin from and add two coins to .
- Type 2: Choose a nonempty box with . Remove one coin from and exchange the contents of (possibly empty) boxes and .Determine whether there is a finite sequence of such operations that results in boxes being empty and box containing exactly coins. (Note that .)
- All are welcome. Everyone (regardless of mathematical level) is welcome to participate. Even very simple or “obvious” comments, or comments that help clarify a previous observation, can be valuable.
- No spoilers! It is inevitable that solutions to this problem will become available on the internet very shortly. If you are intending to participate in this project, I ask that you refrain from looking up these solutions, and that those of you have already seen a solution to the problem refrain from giving out spoilers, until at least one solution has already been obtained organically from the project.
- Not a race. This is not intended to be a race between individuals; the purpose of the polymath experiment is to solve problems collaboratively rather than individually, by proceeding via a multitude of small observations and steps shared between all participants. If you find yourself tempted to work out the entire problem by yourself in isolation, I would request that you refrain from revealing any solutions you obtain in this manner until after the main project has reached at least one solution on its own.
- Update the wiki. Once the number of comments here becomes too large to easily digest at once, participants are encouraged to work on the wiki page to summarise the progress made so far, to help others get up to speed on the status of the project.
- Metacomments go in the discussion thread. Any non-research discussions regarding the project (e.g. organisational suggestions, or commentary on the current progress) should be made at the discussion thread.
- Be polite and constructive, and make your comments as easy to understand as possible. Bear in mind that the mathematical level and background of participants may vary widely.