How to Find Sine, Cosine, and Tangent of 15° and 75° (without using a Trig Identity)


It is possible to find the sine, cosine, and tangent of 15° and also 75° without using a trig identity (and without using a calculator).

The trick is to begin with a 75°-75°-30° isosceles triangle, as shown above. Let AB = AC = 2. These are the sides opposite to the 75° angles. The remaining side, BC, is unknown at this point.

With side AB serving as the base, draw an altitude down from point C, as shown below. This divides the isosceles triangle into two right triangles. Triangle ACD is a 30°-60°-90° triangle and triangle BCD is a 75°-15°-90° triangle.

It is well-known that the sides of a 30°-60-°90° triangle come in the ratio 1:sqrt(3):2, with 1 opposite to 30°, sqrt(3) opposite to 60°, and 2 as the hypotenuse. Since AC = 2 is the hypotenuse, this means that CD = 1 and AD = sqrt(3).

Now we know that the altitude of triangle ABC is CD = 1, which is one side of triangle BCD. We can find side BD by subtracting AD from AB. Since AB = 2 and AD = sqrt(3), we get BD = 2 – sqrt(3).

The Pythagorean theorem can then be used to determine BC, which is the hypotenuse of triangle BCD.

Recall that BD = 2 – sqrt(3) and that CD = 1. After applying the Pythagorean theorem, apply the “foil” method from algebra: (x – y)² = x² – 2xy + y². Recall that (sqrt(3))² = sqrt(3) × sqrt(3) = 3.

To solve for BC, take the square root of both sides of the equation. Factor out the 4. Recall that sqrt(ab) = sqrt(a) × sqrt(b). Note that sqrt(4) = 2.

The above answer has one square root inside of another. There is a clever way to rewrite this without using a nested square root. Rewrite 8 as 6 + 2. The reason behind this is that (sqrt(6))² = 6 and (sqrt(2))² = 2. If you “foil” out (sqrt(6) – sqrt(2))², you get 6 – 2sqrt(12) + 2 = 8 – 4sqrt(3) because sqrt(12) = sqrt(4) × sqrt(3) = 2 sqrt(3) such that 2sqrt(12) = 2(2)sqrt(3) = 4 sqrt(3). If you’re still not convinced, note that sqrt(8 – 4sqrt(3)) is approximately 1.03527618 on a calculator, and that sqrt(6) – sqrt(2) is also approximately 1.03527618 on a calculator.

Since BC = 2 sqrt(2 – sqrt(3)) and BC = sqrt(6) – sqrt(2), it follows from the transitive property that 2 sqrt(2 – sqrt(3)) = sqrt(6) – sqrt(2). Divide both sides by 2 to get the following:

The following forms for BC are equivalent, but the right expression is considered to be “standard form.”

Now that we know BC, BD, and CD, we can easily find the sine, cosine, and tangent of 15°. In triangle BCD, note that BD is opposite to 15°, CD is adjacent to 15°, and BC is the hypotenuse. For the sine of 15°, note that (2 – sqrt(3)) / sqrt(2 – sqrt(3)) = sqrt(2 – sqrt(3)) for the same reason that x/sqrt(x) = sqrt(x). For the cosine of 15°, the answer 1/(sqrt(6) – sqrt(2)) is equivalent to the answer (sqrt(6) + sqrt(2))/4. Both answers approximately equal 0.965925826 on a calculator, but the rightmost expression is considered to be “standard form” because it has a rational denominator. We multiplied the numerator and denominator each by (sqrt(6) + sqrt(2)) in order to rationalize the denominator. This is called “multiplying by the conjugate.” The conjugate of sqrt(6) – sqrt(2) is sqrt(6) + sqrt(2) because the product of these two conjugate expressions is rational. When applying the “foil” method, the irrational terms cancel out.

Note that the sine of 15° is equivalent to the cosine of 75°, and that the cosine of 15° is equivalent to the sine of 75°. What is “opposite” for 15° is “adjacent” for 75°, and vice-versa. For the tangent of 75°, we again multiplied by the conjugate in order to rationalize the denominator.

Below is a summary of our final answers.


Copyright © 2021 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases:

  • Plane Geometry Practice Workbook with Answers (Volumes 1 and 2)
  • 101 Involved Algebra Problems (includes full solutions)
  • Trig Identities Practice Workbook with Answers
  • Logarithms and Exponentials Essential Skills Practice Workbook (with Answers)
  • Master Essential Algebra Skills Practice Workbook (with Answers)
  • Word Problems with Answers

Answer Key for Division Facts Practice Book

Here you can find the answer key to Division Facts Practice Book by Chris McMullen, Ph.D. This practice workbook is part of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks. Most of the workbooks in this series contain the answers at the back of the book. However, the original editions of the basic facts books did not contain the answers. By request, I am adding the answer key for the Division Facts Practice Book to my blog. Here you will find just the answers (not the problems).

Click the link below to access the answer key.

Chris McMullen, Ph.D., author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Answer Key Division Facts Practice Book

Which Calculus Skills Are Most Essential / Practical?



You learn a lot during a calculus course.

How much of this is useful?

Of course, it depends on what you do after calculus.

For example, much of the material is needed in higher-level math courses.

But how about for physics, engineering, and other applications of calculus?

  • derivatives of polynomials and trig functions are absolutely essential. You need to practice these until you’re fluent.
  • for integration, sometimes you can get by with a table of integrals, but to be successful with this, you need to understand the ideas behind integration, and you need to have some experience doing integrals by hand.
  • but what if you take a course that applies calculus where the professor doesn’t allow a table of integrals? In that case, it may be handy to be familiar with u-sub, trig-sub, and integration by parts. (Familiarity with these techniques may also help you better understand how to use tables of integrals, and especially what to do when you need to integrate an expression that you can’t quite find in a standard table.)
  • derivatives and anti-derivatives of exponentials and logarithms show up in some common differential equations in science and mathematics.
  • double and triple integrals naturally come about in some applications of physics and engineering.
  • optimization and extreme value problems are very common in many important applications of calculus. It’s worth learning these techniques very well.
  • it’s very common to make a graph when you have data in math or science, so it would be helpful to understand conceptually how derivatives and integrals are related to interpreting a graph.
  • most real-world problems require numerical solutions, so any chance to apply calculus numerically is helpful. Example: Simpson’s rule.
  • when you derive an equation in physics or another field, it’s helpful if you can verify that it exhibits appropriate behavior for various limiting cases. Taylor series expansions are often helpful with this.
  • multi-variable calculus is handy because the real-world seldom involves relations with just two independent variables, x and y. Vector calculus is essential for going beyond the first year of physics.


Copyright © 2018 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases (in math):

  • Essential Calculus Skills Practice Workbook (with Full Solutions)
  • 50 Challenging Algebra Problems
  • 50 Challenging Calculus Problems (available in September, 2018)
  • Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers


The Answers Are Correct (Why Some Students Don’t Realize It)


Many math books post the answers to selected questions in the back of the book. Most of my workbooks include the answers to every question in the back of the book.

A few students get a different form of the same answer, and mistakenly believe that the answer in the back of the book is wrong, when it’s really correct.

One common example occurs when the student gets a squareroot in the denominator, like:

The above answer isn’t in standard form. Most math teachers and authors would rationalize the denominator in order to express the answer in standard form. To rationalize the denominator, multiply both the numerator and denominator by the squareroot of 2, like the example below. Note that the squareroot of 2 times itself equals 2.

If you didn’t realize this, there is a simple way around it. Use a calculator. If you enter 1/sqrt(2) on your calculator, you will get 0.707106781. If you enter sqrt(2)/2 on your calculator correctly, you will get 0.707106781. Now you can see that the two seemingly “different” answers are exactly the same.

Unfortunately, many of the popular algebra solvers that you can find online don’t express their answers in standard form. So if you solve an algebra problem and get 1/sqrt(2) as your answer, an online algebra solver might give you the same answer, 1/sqrt(2), and then you might feel “confident” that the book’s answer, sqrt(2)/2, must be wrong because it’s different. But the book’s answer is actually the same answer. In fact, the book’s answer is better because it is expressed in standard form. It’s “better” in the sense that many teachers prefer for their students to express their answers in standard form.

Here is another common example. Suppose that a student obtains the following answer:

This answer isn’t in standard form. Most math teachers and authors would factor out the perfect square. Note that 8 equals 4 times 2. The number 4 is a perfect square, since the squareroot of 4 is 2 (put another way, 2 squared equals 4). You can factor out the perfect square as follows:

Again, you can check this with a calculator. Whether you enter sqrt(8) or 2*sqrt(2) on your calculator, either way you will get 2.828427125.

As a third example, suppose a student arrives at an answer of 9/6, but the book’s answer is 3/2. Once again, the student sees something different and assumes that one of the two answers must be incorrect. However, 9/6 equals 3/2. The difference is that the fraction 3/2 is in reduced form, whereas the answer 9/6 can be reduced. To see this, divide both the numerator and denominator of 9/6 by 3. You will get 9/6 = (9/3) / (6/3) = 3/2. If you use a calculator, you can check that 9/6 and 3/2 both equal 1.5.

This has been a problem for me with my workbook, Algebra Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers. An occasional review suggests that some of the answers are wrong. However, in every case that a student has mentioned a specific problem, and in every case that a student has contacted me by email to inquire about an answer, it has turned out that the student’s answer was, in fact, equivalent to the answer in the back of the book. The problem has usually been that the student didn’t rationalize a denominator, factor out a perfect square, or reduce a fraction.

As an author, it can be frustrating to know that the answers are correct, yet see a book review on Amazon suggesting otherwise. When I made the updated 2014 edition, an international math guru and I independently checked every single answer in this book with painstaking care. The answers are correct. The challenge is getting students to realize this.

On the product page, I worked out the full solutions, step by step, for some common questions that students have asked about, in order to help show that the answers are, in fact, correct. If students have questions, they are encouraged to contact me and give me an opportunity to teach them something that they might not have realized. Unfortunately, reviews that suggest that the answer key has mistakes discourage some students from using the book. Some customers would believe a random stranger’s review over a teacher with 20+ years classroom experience with a Ph.D. (If you think about it, if the student bought an algebra practice workbook, that student is probably not yet an expert on the subject of algebra.)

If you use any of my math workbooks and come to trust the answer key, please post a review to help other potential customers. If you suspect any of the answers may be wrong, please contact me (there is a contact me button my blog, for example) to ask about the answer. (It would also help if customers who know that the answers are reliable would vote on reviews as being helpful or not helpful.)

For my newest workbooks, like 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved), I’m now working out the full solution to every problem in the book so that students can see how I arrived at each answer. In many cases, I also offer alternative forms of the same answer (but it’s impossible to list every possible answer that a student might obtain). I hope that the full solutions will be helpful to students, and help them realize that the book’s answers are correct.

I have two new workbooks on the subject of calculus coming soon.


Copyright © 2018 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases (in math):

  • 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved)
  • Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers
  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing
  • physics
  • calculus (coming August, 2018)

Challenging Algebra Problems


This article includes the following sections:

  • Ways to Challenge Advanced Students
  • How to Make Challenging Algebra Problems
  • A Couple of Sample Problems (from my latest book)
  • 50 Challenging Algebra Problems – Fully Solved (my latest workbook)


Some students catch on quickly, while others struggle to understand.

So how can you engage and challenge the better problem-solvers without blowing the minds of the other students?

  • If you’re a teacher, you can include a challenging bonus question on an assignment, quiz, or exam.
  • If you’re a parent, you can search for supplemental material with challenging problems.
  • If you’re a student, you can try solving harder unassigned problems, reading ahead in your textbook, or looking for supplemental material.


For teachers (or very knowledgeable parents) who would like to make challenging problems, here are some ideas for how to go about it:

  • Disguise the quadratic equation. One way is to make more than the usual three terms and put some on both sides of the equation, so that students need to combine like terms. Another way is to substitute y = xc, where c is a power of your choice. For example, if you let c = 2, your equation will look like a quartic, but if students make the substitution y = x2, the quartic will turn into a quadratic. Another example is to let c = 1/2 and replace y = x1/2 with a squareroot. When students see that squareroot, it won’t seem like a quadratic. Tip: Think of what you want the answers to be, like x = 2 and x = 4/3, and then f.o.i.l. this into the quadratic, like (x – 2)(x – 4/3) = 0. (In this example, I would multiply both sides by 3 to get rid of the fraction.)
  • Make a system of equations look different from normal. Students are used to seeing things like 3x + 2y = 21 and 4x – 5y = 5. Instead, you might write the second equation like xy = 15, or y = 15/x. Another variation is to replace x with 1/x and y with 1/y. In my example, you would get 3/x + 2/y = 21 and 4/x – 5/y = 5. If students define t = 1/x and u = 1/y, they could then solve for t and u like usual, and then solve for x and y from t and u. Tip: When making a system, first decide on the answers, like x = 9 and y = 12, next make the coefficients, and lastly determine the constants.
  • Put squareroots in problems they should know how to solve, but which usually don’t have squareroots in them. For example, if you have squareroot(3) and 1/squareroot(3) in the same equation, the terms can be combined by rationalizing the denominator to rewrite 1/squareroot(3) as squareroot(3) / 3. (Multiply the numerator and denominator by the squareroot of 3, and use the rule that the squareroot of 3 times itself equals 3.) Then factor out squareroot(3) to combine the terms.
  • Put variables inside of squareroots. For example, you could write something like squareroot(x + 8) = x + 2. When you square both sides, you f.o.i.l. out the (x + 2) squared. There are many other ways to write a solvable equation with a variable in a squareroot. You could have things like squareroot(x) or 1/squareroot(x).
  • Include an extra variable that cancels out. If students count equations and unknowns, it will seem like the problem can’t be solved. They’re partly right: The variable that cancels out will be indeterminate. But since one variable cancels, in this case it will be possible to solve for the other unknown(s).
  • Use fractional exponents like 2/3 or 3/4. For example, if you isolate x to the power of 2/3, you can solve for x by raising both sides of the equation to the power of 3/2. You can make the numbers work out so that a calculator isn’t needed for students who understand the fractional powers. For example, if you raise 8 to the power of 2/3, you can do this in your head, since the cube root of 8 equals 2 (the power of 1/3 means to take the cube root, and you can think of 2/3 as involving a square and a cube root in any order). Of course, you can easily check your answer with a calculator, just to be sure.
  • Put the unknown in a denominator. It’s amazing how many students freeze up over this, yet it’s not uncommon in science for variables to appear in the denominators of formulas. The progression of this occurs when students need to make a common algebraic denominator to solve for the unknown.
  • Give problems that involve inequalities, especially when there are minus signs. For example, make a system of inequalities that involves substitution.
  • Look for applications of algebra in higher-level math, physics, engineering, chemistry, economics, astronomy, and other subjects. (Sometimes, the problem isn’t really that hard, but it just seems hard because it’s out of context. But there are also challenging applied algebra problems in many subjects.)
  • Make word problems that apply algebra. There is great variety in what can be done in the way of algebraic word problems.
  • Prepare an elaborate solution that has an intentional mistake and ask students to figure out what is wrong. Ideally, the mistake would seem subtle, and would be a common mistake that many students tend to make on their own (like not distributing a minus sign correctly).

There are two types of problems that especially appeal to me:

  • One kind where the problems look harder than they really are. I love it when students feel convinced that the problem is impossible based on what they know, but when they eventually figure it out on their own. This happens sometimes when a problem appears out of context, involves an application of algebra, or when a simple substitution makes something seem a lot more complicated than it really is. Word problems often fall in this category, too.
  • The other kind is where the problem looks much easier than it really is. The structure might be so simple that at first glance you expect it to be a piece of cake, but there is some subtle aspect to it that it turns out to be much harder than it seemed. The catch is that the problem still needs to be reasonably solvable, so that the top students can still figure it out given enough time and sufficient background. It’s surprising how many mathematical problems look easy, but turn out not to be nearly as easy as they look.


Here are a couple of sample problems from my latest math workbook.


My latest math workbook includes 50 challenging algebra problems, space to try and solve them (in the paperback edition), and full solutions on the page following each problem (you won’t be able to see the full solutions until you turn the page).

There is a healthy variety of problems, involving a range of techniques. There is also a good range in the level of difficulty from problem to problem.

50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved)

Paperback ISBN: 19416912344

Kindle ASIN: B07C7WHV3R


Copyright © 2018 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases (in math):

  • 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved)
  • Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers
  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing
  • physics

What Should Students Learn about Fractions?


Not everyone loves fractions, but fraction skills are important for a number of reasons.

  • It helps to be fluent with fraction skills when you take algebra, trigonometry, and calculus courses. When you solve for an unknown in algebra, the answer doesn’t always turn out to be a whole number. One reason that cross multiplication is difficult for many students is that the problems inherently involve fractions. In calculus, simple polynomial anti-derivatives naturally involve fractions (like the integral of x squared, which is one-third of x cubed plus a constant).
  • We also use fractions in science courses like chemistry and physics. So if a student is struggling with fractions in math courses, these struggles also impact science courses. On the other hand, if a student takes the time to master fractions in math, this becomes an asset when fractions appear in other courses. Decimals and percentages (which are basically just other forms of fractions where the denominator is a power of ten) are very common forms of fractions in science and engineering.
  • Fractions are actually pretty common. Almost every day, we see something happen a few times, and start to wonder how often that happens. Maybe your cell phone is doing something funny, or maybe you notice a quirk in somebody’s personality. If you give attention to this, you’ll realize that it’s common to wonder, “How often does that happen?” Many people just guess at it, but their guesses aren’t always realistic (especially when something obviously isn’t extremely common, but they say something like 90% of the time). If you have a small sample, like it happened 3 out of the last 8 times, you can use the fraction (in this case, 3/8) as a projection. You might convert 3/8 to a percentage and see that it equates to 37.5%, for example.
  • If you have a ruler marked in inches, you will see fractions in many common measurements. The fraction will be something like 5/12, 7/8, 3/4, or 1/2. If you have a good feel for fractions, it helps to interpret these numbers. For example, if you measure the diameters of two different balls, and one ball is 3/8″ while the other is 1/3″, can you tell which is bigger just from the numbers?

With the importance of fractions in mind, following is my list of essential fraction skills, based on my experience helping students learn how to apply their math skills in science classes and laboratories.

  • Visual association. Students should be able to draw pie slices to represent fractions, or should be able to write down a fraction to represent a pie slice.
  • Terminology. You can’t discuss fractions with anybody or understand a lecture about fractions if you don’t understand what the different words and phrases mean, like numerator, denominator, reciprocal, common denominator, reduced fraction, greatest common factor, decimal, percentage, proper fraction, improper fraction, mixed number, ratio, and proportion.
  • Reducing fractions. Students should be fluent in reducing fractions down to their simplest form. For example, 8/12 reduces to 2/3 if you divide the numerator (8) and denominator (12) both by 4.
  • Common denominators. Given two different fractions, like 4/7 and 3/5, students should be able to find a common denominator.
  • Mixed numbers. Students should be able to convert between improper fractions and mixed numbers.
  • Addition and subtraction. Students should be able to find a common denominator in order to add or subtract fractions.
  • Multiplication. Students should be able to multiply fractions. (It’s easier than addition or subtraction.)
  • Reciprocals. Students should know how to find the reciprocal of any fraction or whole number.
  • Division. Students should know that dividing two fractions is equivalent to multiplying by the reciprocal of the second fraction.
  • Decimals. Students should be able to convert fractions into decimals or decimals into fractions.
  • Percentages. Students should be able to convert decimals into percentages or percentages into decimals.
  • Repeating decimals. Students should be familiar with repeating decimals and how they relate to fractions.
  • Word problems. You know you understand the concepts well and can apply them when you can solve a variety of word problems that involve fractions.


Copyright © 2018 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases (in math):

  • Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers
  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing
  • physics

Powers of Ten

Powers of 10


What are powers of 10?

Powers 5

How do you multiply or divide powers of 10?

Powers 6

What are negative powers of 10?

What is 10 raised to the power of zero?

Powers 7

Compare positive and negative powers of 10. Note that the number of zeros is a little different with positive and negative powers of 10. See the chart below.

Powers 8


Powers 9

Teachers (and home school educators or parents) are welcome to use the above material regarding powers of 10 for non-commercial educational purposes.


Copyright © 2017 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest release (in math):

  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles

Click here to visit my Amazon author page.

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing
  • physics


How to Use Algebra in Arithmetic



It’s interesting that algebra can be useful in arithmetic.

Since arithmetic is a prerequsite to learning algebra, most algebra courses don’t focus on how to apply algebra to do arithmetic.

However, you can apply your algebra skills to arithmetic problems.

Following is an example.

Suppose that you would like to multiply 58 times 58, but don’t have a calculator (or cell phone) handy.

One way to do this, which is often taught in elementary school, is basically to multiply 8 times 58, then multiply 50 times 58, and add these together.

Algebraically, what your elementary school teacher taught you is that 58 × 58 = (50 + 8) × 58 = 50 × 58 + 8 × 58.

You may not have realized it at the time, but your teacher was applying the distributive property of mathematics.

When you solve the problem this way, first you multiply 8 × 58 to get 464. Then you multiply 50 × 58 to get 2900. Finally, you add these together to get 3364.

Now let’s see how algebra can supply an alternative solution.

I’d prefer to work with nice round numbers. Hey, 60 is a round number close to 58. If I could work with a round number, like 60, and a small number, like 2, that would make the arithmetic much simpler to do without a calculator.

So let’s write 58 as 60 minus 2.

Then the problem is 58 × 58 = (60 – 2) × (60 – 2).

Use the f.o.i.l. method from algebra. Recall that the f.o.i.l. method stands for “first,” “outside,” “inside,” “last.”

One example of the f.o.i.l. method from algebra is (x + y)(x + y) = x² + xy + xy +y² = x² + 2xy +y².

Let’s apply this to the arithmetic problem. We can think of (60 – 2) as (x + y), where x = 60 and y = –2.

58 × 58 = (60 – 2) × (60 – 2) = 60 × 60 + 2 (60)(–2) + (–2) × (–2).

Look what we did. We wrote the original problem, 58 × 58, in terms of three simple multiplication problems: 60 × 60, 2 × 60 × (–2), and (–2) × (–2).

58 × 58 = 3600 – 240 + 4 = 3364.

Note that (–2) × (–2) = +4 because the two minus signs cancel out.


Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest release:

  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing

Mathematical Pattern Puzzle: Fill in the Missing Numbers

Puzzle Square


Here is an exercise in pattern recognition.

It’s not a linear pattern.

This is an array, so there is a slight geometric element to the pattern.

See if you can figure out the missing numbers in the above puzzle.

Study the four arrays.

See if you can recognize the pattern.

Once you identify the pattern, apply it to the fifth array.

Spoiler alert.

If you scroll down too far…

You will run into the answer.

So stop scrolling down…

If you would like more time to solve the puzzle.

Ready or not.

Here it comes.

First the answer:

Puzzle Square Answer

Now the solution.

Begin with the top left number.

Double the top left number. That makes the top right number. 5 doubled = 10.

Now multiply the top two numbers. That makes the bottom left number. 5 times 10 = 50.

Now add the bottom left number to the top right number. That makes the bottom right number. 50 plus 10 equals 60.


Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases:

  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles
  • Basic Linear Graphing Skills Practice Workbook
  • Systems of Equations: Simultaneous, Substitution, Cramer’s Rule

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing

Five Math Puzzles (pattern recognition): Can You Solve Them?


Here is a math puzzle challenge.

Hint: Each of the 5 patterns below has something in common.

Directions: See if you can figure out which numbers go in the blanks.

  • 1, 2, 4, 6, 10, 12, 16, 18, 22, _, _
  • 4, 6, 10, 14, 22, 26, 34, 38, _, _
  • 3, 7, 13, 19, 29, 37, _, _
  • 4, 9, 25, 49, 121, 169, 289, _, _
  • 5, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42, 52, 60, 68, _, _

If you need help, you can find hints below.

But don’t scroll too far or you’ll run into the answers and explanations.


Each pattern above has something in common.

They all involve prime numbers.

A prime number is only evenly divisible by two integers: 1 and itself.

For example, 7 is a prime number because the only integers that can multiply together to make 7 are 1 and 7.

In contrast, 6 isn’t a prime number because 2 x 3 = 6 (in addition to 1 x 6).

Here are the first several prime numbers.

2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37

Each of the puzzles above relates to these prime numbers.

When you’re ready, you can find answers and explanations below.


Here are the answers and explanations to the math puzzles:

  • 28, 30. Explanation: Subtract 1 from each prime number: 2 – 1 = 1, 3 – 1 = 2, 5 – 1 = 4, 7 – 1 = 6, 11 – 1 = 10, etc.
  • 46, 58. Explanation: Double each prime number: 2 x 2 = 4, 3 x 2 = 6, 5 x 2 = 10, 7 x 2 = 14, 11 x 2 = 22, etc.
  • 43, 53. Explanation: Every other prime number: 3 (skip 5) 7 (skip 11) 13 (skip 17) 19 (skip 23) 29 etc.
  • 361, 529. Explanation: Square each prime number: 2² = 4, 3² = 9, 5² = 25, 7² = 49, 11² = 121, etc.
  • 78, 84. Explanation: Add consecutive prime numbers together: 2 + 3 = 5, 3 + 5 = 8, 5 + 8 = 13, 8 + 13 = 21, 13 + 21 = 34, etc.


One way is to follow my blog. I will post occasional math puzzles in the future.

Another way is to check out my newest book, 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles.

It starts out easy and the level of challenge grows progressively so that puzzlers of all abilities can find many puzzles to enjoy.

A wide variety of topics are covered, including:

  • visual patterns
  • arithmetic
  • repeating patterns
  • Roman numerals
  • Fibonacci sequence
  • prime numbers
  • arrays
  • analogies
  • and much more

The cover was designed by Melissa Stevens at


Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Newest releases:

  • 300+ Mathematical Pattern Puzzles
  • Basic Linear Graphing Skills Practice Workbook
  • Systems of Equations: Simultaneous, Substitution, Cramer’s Rule

Improve Your Math Fluency. Build fluency in:

  • arithmetic
  • long division
  • fractions
  • algebra
  • trigonometry
  • graphing