THE MILLIONAIRE'S PERPLEXITY.—solution

The answer to this quite easy puzzle may, of course, be readily obtained by trial, deducting the largest power of 7 that is contained in one million dollars, then the next largest power from the remainder, and so on. But the little problem is intended to illustrate a simple direct method. The answer is given at once by converting 1,000,000 to the septenary scale, and it is on this subject of scales of notation that I propose to write a few words for the benefit of those who have never sufficiently considered the matter.

Our manner of figuring is a sort of perfected arithmetical shorthand, a system devised to enable us to manipulate numbers as rapidly and correctly as possible by means of symbols. If we write the number 2,341 to represent two thousand three hundred and forty-one dollars, we wish to imply 1 dollar, added to four times 10 dollars, added to three times 100 dollars, added to two times 1,000 dollars. From the number in the units place on the right, every figure to the left is understood to represent a multiple of the particular power of 10 that its position indicates, while a cipher (0) must be inserted where necessary in order to prevent confusion, for if instead of 207 we wrote 27 it would be obviously misleading. We thus only require ten figures, because directly a number exceeds 9 we put a second figure to the left, directly it exceeds 99 we put a third figure to the left, and so on. It will be seen that this is a purely arbitrary method. It is working in the denary (or ten) scale of notation, a system undoubtedly derived from the fact that our forefathers who devised it had ten fingers upon which they were accustomed to count, like our children of to-day. It is unnecessary for us ordinarily to state that we are using the denary scale, because this is always understood in the common affairs of life.

But if a man said that he had 6,553 dollars in the septenary (or seven) scale of notation, you will find that this is precisely the same amount as 2,341 in our ordinary denary scale. Instead of using powers of ten, he uses powers of 7, so that he never needs any figure higher than 6, and 6,553 really stands for 3, added to five times 7, added to five times 49, added to six times 343 (in the ordinary notation), or 2,341. To reverse the operation, and convert 2,341 from the denary to the septenary scale, we divide it by 7, and get 334 and remainder 3; divide 334 by 7, and get 47 and remainder 5; and so keep on dividing by 7 as long as there is anything to divide. The remainders, read backwards, 6, 5, 5, 3, give us the answer, 6,553.

Now, as I have said, our puzzle may be solved at once by merely converting 1,000,000 dollars to the septenary scale. Keep on dividing this number by 7 until there is nothing more left to divide, and the remainders will be found to be 11333311 which is 1,000,000 expressed in the septenary scale. Therefore, 1 gift of 1 dollar, 1 gift of 7 dollars, 3 gifts of 49 dollars, 3 gifts of 343 dollars, 3 gifts of 2,401 dollars, 3 gifts of 16,807 dollars, 1 gift of 117,649 dollars, and one substantial gift of 823,543 dollars, satisfactorily solves our problem. And it is the only possible solution. It is thus seen that no "trials" are necessary; by converting to the septenary scale of notation we go direct to the answer.