top of page

When A Math Problem From Ramanujan's Childhood Kept Everyone At the Young Readers' Club Enthralled!

Ramanujan from zero to infinity

The author, Arundhati Venkatesh, has remarkably crafted the story of the brilliant mathematician, Ramanujan, in her book, Ramanujan from Zero to Infinity. The story becomes alive with Priya Kurien's illustrations that appear at just the right moments of the story, helping to pull the reader in to the time in which Ramanujan lived and grew.

The book has plenty of riddles, puns in the English language too which will definitely make young readers have a good time as they read this book. In particular, there was an interesting problem in the book. The exact details of the scene have been left out on purpose. It is a scene that must be read and enjoyed in the author's own words. This is only to give you a brief idea and motivate you to pick up the book yourself and read. Even better encourage your child to read it.

The scene has a water body in which there are three rocks. They are equidistant from each other forming an equilateral triangle. Three boys are given three planks whose length is shorter than the distance between any two given rocks. The challenge is to place the three planks in such a way that one can go to any rock from any one of the rocks.

There were multiple interesting responses from the children at the Young Readers' Club. Some were scientific, others were imaginative. But it was wonderful to see my young reading companions freely brainstorm.

Reader 1: Start with rock A, place a plank, walk on it and place the second one to reach the next rock. Repeat the process.

Question from the audience: Wouldn't the first plank fall into the water without enough support?

Reader 2: How about this? Use the plank like a skate board and jump from one rock to the next?

Reader 3: How about simply walking around the rocks instead of climbing on them?

Reader 4: But we need to use the planks remember? Why not move the rocks closer to each other? Then it would be possible to use all the three planks and one can walk comfortably?

Question from the audience: How can you move a rock that is fixed? It is difficult to break a rock and move it.

Reader 5: Carry the plank and make high jumps from one plank to another.

Reader 6: Why not use the planks to make a boat and then travel from one stone to another?

Reader 7: There are three boys. So each of them could stand on any given rock with a plank. At any given time, two of them could hold out the plank towards each other. That way one bridge would be formed. Then repeat the process for second route and so on.

After this invigorating discussion we went to discover how Ramanujan solved this puzzle. It was very different from our solutions and left us amazed by its simplicity and how quickly he was able to come up with the solution. If you are curious to know what that solution was, might be the best idea to pick up the book yourself.


Where to buy the book? Eurekabookstore

Want to borrow from a library? Kahaani Box


If you enjoyed reading this article, click on the button below to stay informed.

Both weekday and weekend batches are available at the Young Readers' Club. While this program is for the 8-12 age group, the Young Writers' Club program for the 13-15 age group offers a weekly platform to read and discuss curated articles from the news, observe writing approaches and practise one's writing skills.

Need more information? Please fill in the contact form below and we will reach out to you asap.


bottom of page