Mathematical Digest

Short Summaries of Articles about Mathematics
in the Popular Press

"Prize offered for solving number conundrum," by Ivars Peterson. Science News, 15 November 1997, page 310.

"Number Theorists Embark on a New Treasure Hunt," by Dana Mackenzie. Science, 21 November 1997, page 1396.

"Banker Offers $50,000 to Entice Mathematicians to Solve Number Theory Problem," by Kim McDonald. Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 November 1997.

"Math lover offers winner piece of pi," by Steve Blow. Dallas Morning News, 30 November 1997.

"Solve this Riddle and Win $50,000," by Elizabeth Veomett. Business Week, 15 December 1997, page 107.

"Wanted: six numbers for $50,000 reward," by Keith Devlin. Manchester Guardian, 7 January 1998.

"Earn Cash While Working at Home!" Esquire, March 1998

Each of these articles reports on the offer by Andrew Beal, a Dallas banker, to award a prize of US$50,000 to anyone who can solve a number theory problem he has proposed. The problem, known generally as the Beal Conjecture, bears some similarity to Fermat's Last Theorem, which had stumped mathematicians for 350 years and which was solved recently by Princeton mathematician Andrew Wiles. Fermat's Last Theorem says that the equation An + Bn = Cn, where all of the letters represent whole numbers, has no solution if n is bigger than 2. The Beal Conjecture states that if Ax + By = Cz, then A, B, and C have a common factor (here all the letters represent whole numbers, with x, y, and z bigger than 2). For further information on the Beal Conjecture and the prize, visit the web site

--- Allyn Jackson