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Brahma Tower

Keith Thackery David Tuttle Liz Murphy Venkat Ellur

Class: Algebra or pre-algebra.

Materials: Three towers (called Brahma or math towers) marked


X, Y, and Z; disks marked A, B, C, D, ... of different radii but
the same thickness; paper and pencil.

Goals: Develop skills in problem solving, pattern recognition,


and formula design.

Time Required: One or two class periods.

Background: The knowledge of sequences and corresponding


formulas.

Setting: The following setting is for three disks. Disks A, B,


and C are place on tower X in order from smallest (C on top) to
largest (A on bottom). In each movement to be made, a larger
disk is never placed on top of a smaller disk. After a series
of movements, disks A, B, and C must all be on either tower Y or
Z in the original order of sizes (smallest on top to largest on
bottom). One disk movement constitutes a "move." The same
basic problem can be used for 4, 5, or any number of disks.

Problem: Move the disks from one tower to another in the


minimum number of moves. In listing the positions of A, B, and
C on X, Y, and Z, make sure to list them from bottom to top as
shown in the sample solution. Keep a record of your trials
using the chart provided. After finding the minimum number of
moves for 3, 4, 5, 6, ... disks, devise a formula for the
minimum number of moves for n disks.

Sample Solution: The table below shows the postions of the


three disks on the three towers at the completion of each move.

Movement Tower X Tower Y Tower Z


#
0 A, B, C ------ ------
1 A, B C ------
2 A C B
3 A ------ B, C
4 ------ A B, C
5 C A B
6 C A, B ------
7 ------ A, B, C ------

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation and Indiana University 1995
Evaluation: Each team will submit a report with charts for their trials
properly completed and will be prepared to present their solutions orally.
The minimum number of movements for each number of disks and the
formula for the minimum number of moves for n disks must be listed to get
full credit.

Extensions: Teams can find the minimum number of moves for any given
number of n disks using four towers.

Teacher Notes: Students have to check whether they have done the
movements in proper order and the entries are made correctly. They may
have to redo the activity to confirm the numbers.

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation and Indiana University 1995
Brahma Tower
Student Data Sheet

Record moves made to move four disks from Tower X to either Tower Y or Z.

Movement Tower X Tower Y Tower Z


#
0 A, B, C, D ------ ------
1
2
3
4
5
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Brahma Tower
Student Data Sheet
Record moves made to move five disks from Tower X to either Tower Y or Z.

Movement Tower X Tower Y Tower Z


#
0 A, B, C, D, E ------ ------
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
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