A few people felt that my experiment about solving the equation would have been more interesting if the equation had been more interesting. I’m not sure I agree with that: part of my intention was to get some evidence about what we do in a very simple situation. However, I now have another example that I want to know about, and it happens to be a harder one. Not much harder, but harder nevertheless.

One of the byproducts of its being a more interesting equation is that it will be quite a lot harder to encode all possible experiences that people might have and run a vote as I did last time. So I’ve made the vote a little bit vaguer, and I will be interested not just in the numbers but also in people’s descriptions of what they did (as I was first time round). My main aim is to get a fairly complete picture of all the ways that different mathematicians find it natural to think about the problem.

As last time, if you want to take part, then try to keep a close eye on all your thought processes: I’m interested not just in the ones that got you to the answer, but also in the ones that you might have thought about and dismissed. So try not to look at the problem until you are ready to keep track of what your reactions are. The problem will appear immediately after the fold. For the benefit of those who read this using RSS, I’ve also left a bit of space, and I’ve left space between the problem and my discussion of it. (more…)