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Family Ties

Family Ties

Family TiesThis weeks’s Puzzle Corner activity is a collection of three riddles all dealing with the relationships between relatives. The first one is thought to be many hundreds of years old and is one of the best known brainteasers of all time. I have chosen to leave it in its original form, even though the style of English used is not commonly heard today. The second riddle is an adaptation of one that has been around for a number of years, but is much more recent than first. The final riddle, as far as I can tell, has only been around since the last century.

Each of these riddles revolves around recognizing the relationships between relatives. These riddles can be quite challenging for students and adults alike. However, as soon as the answers are discovered, one wonders why they were so difficult. To keep students who do solve the riddles from spoiling the opportunity for their peers to experience an “”aha”” moment, caution them not to share their solutions with others until the proper time.

My practice, when using riddles like these, was to introduce them early in the week, ask students to work independently on them during the week, and then have a whole-class sharing session regarding them late in the week. During the sharing time, I asked students who had solved the riddles to think of clues they could give that would help those who still had not come up with solutions to come up with an answer. This way, more students had an opportunity to solve the riddles before hearing the answer. This sharing format took some time for students to get used to, but was worth the effort in the long run.

Riddles
These riddles revolve around relatives and their relative relationships. Reflective reasoning is required to resolve these riddles. Good luck!

  1. Sisters and brothers have I none, but that man’s father is my father’s son. How is this possible?
  2. Two mothers and two daughters went shopping. Each mother and daughter bought a new purse, yet they only purchased three purses. How is this possible?
  3. A few minutes after a banker dropped off his son at a day care, a fire broke out. The son was trapped in a back room while the workers and all the other children escaped. When the firefighters arrived, one of them quickly looked at all of the children who had escaped and exclaimed, “My son is still in there – must go in and get him out!” How is this possible?

Solution

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Family Ties puzzle is a collection of three riddles all dealing with the relationships between relatives. The riddles and their solutions follow.

1. Sisters and brothers have I none, but that man’s father is my father’s son. How is this possible?
The solution to this riddle is that there are three men present: a grandfather, a father, and a son. The father is talking and pointing to the son when he says that man’s father (which is himself) is my father’s (referring to the grandfather) son (which is himself). (My head still spins every time I try and think through this riddle!)

2. Two mothers and two daughters went shopping. Each mother and daughter bought a new purse, yet they only purchased three purses. How is this possible?
There are three people (grandmother, mother, and daughter) two of whom play dual roles (grandmother and mother are both mothers — mother and daughter are both daughters).

3. A few minutes after a banker dropped off his son at a day care a fire broke out. The son was trapped in a back room while the workers and all the other children escaped. When the firefighters arrived, one of them looked at all the children and then exclaimed, ” My son is still in there — I must go in and get him out!” How is this possible?
The firefighter is the boy’s mother.

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