An Ingenious Match Puzzle

dudeney match problem.png

Lay out six matches in the way depicted in the illustration. The objective is to shift one match without displacing the others so that the resulting arrangement would represent an arithmetical fraction equal to 1. You are not allowed to move the match forming the horizontal fraction bar. 


In the 1916 issue of Strand MagazineHenry Ernest Dudeney wrote that a French correspondent sent him this matchstick puzzle but the solution was not given to him. Hence, he solved it himself.

Dudeney said that he’s certain that the solution to this puzzle was the same as his solution.

dudeney match solution

You can see that one of the I in VII is shifted to form a square root or radical sign. The square root of 1 is 1 and 1 divided 1 is equal to 1.

This is one of the best “easy” matchstick puzzles I have ever seen. I’m not sure if I would be able to figure this out if someone challenges me to solve it without prior knowledge of the solution.

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

16 thoughts on “An Ingenious Match Puzzle

  1. The Roman Numerals threw me because i could not see how to make them into a fraction of 1 except something raised to the power of zero is always one. I did not think of square roots. have you any others?


  2. Love stuff like this …. I bought a book once for my children when they were smaller and it was full of seemingly straight forward similar puzzles, which always make us thing and draw for hours. Real brain-teaser stuff. The back-page answers usually revealed a more obvious, yet invisible at first glance, solution.

    Liked by 1 person

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