Oct 18, 2023
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Unraveling the Challenge: Switzerland Math Olympiad Equation (2)^20 – 9

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Unraveling the Challenge: Switzerland Math Olympiad Equation (2)^20 – 9


Mathematics is a treasure trove of intriguing problems and equations that can challenge even the brightest minds. In this blog post, we are going to explore a particular mathematical conundrum from the Switzerland Math Olympiad, one that involves a seemingly simple expression: (2)^20 – 9. Despite its apparent simplicity, this equation holds the power to captivate mathematicians and problem-solvers alike. So, let’s dive in and dissect this equation in more than 600 words, unraveling the beauty and complexity it conceals.

Understanding the Expression

The expression in question is (2)^20 – 9, which represents the result of raising the number 2 to the 20th power and then subtracting 9 from it. On the surface, it appears to be a straightforward calculation. However, as is often the case in mathematics, appearances can be deceiving.

Calculating (2)^20

First, let’s tackle the exponentiation. Raising 2 to the power of 20 means multiplying 2 by itself 20 times:

(2)^20 = 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2 * 2

Calculating this out results in a gargantuan number: 1,048,576. So, (2)^20 equals 1,048,576.

Subtracting 9

The second part of our equation is straightforward—simply subtracting 9 from our previous result, 1,048,576:

1,048,576 – 9 = 1,048,567

You might be thinking, “Is that all there is to it?” The answer is yes, and no. From a computational perspective, we’ve successfully calculated the expression (2)^20 – 9. The result is 1,048,567.

However, this is where the story gets interesting in the context of the Switzerland Math Olympiad.

Math Olympiad Puzzles

Math Olympiad problems are renowned for their cleverness and the unique insights they require. Often, they introduce a simple-looking problem that hides complex patterns, properties, or alternative solutions.

In the context of a competition like the Switzerland Math Olympiad, the equation (2)^20 – 9 may be part of a larger, more intricate problem. It could serve as a starting point for further exploration or as a puzzle piece.

Consider the Possibilities

While the equation (2)^20 – 9 may seem elementary on its own, it’s a reminder that mathematics is a vast field where even the most basic expressions can lead to fascinating insights. In problem-solving competitions like the Math Olympiad, the challenge lies not in performing the arithmetic but in understanding the deeper mathematical concepts and finding creative, efficient solutions.

The deeper question we should ask when encountering such an equation is, “Why was this included in a math competition, and what insights or strategies might it reveal?”

One Possible Insight

In the context of problem-solving, this equation might be used to test a contestant’s ability to recognize patterns. Indeed, in mathematics, recognizing patterns is a crucial skill. This equation can lead us to notice that 1,048,567 is a prime number, as it has no divisors other than 1 and itself. Discovering this pattern, among others, might be the key to unlocking the larger puzzle in a competition setting.


The equation (2)^20 – 9, while seemingly simple, serves as an excellent reminder of the depth and complexity that mathematics offers. In mathematical competitions like the Switzerland Math Olympiad, even straightforward expressions can be the gateway to hidden patterns and deeper insights.

So, the next time you encounter such an equation, don’t just perform the arithmetic and move on. Take a moment to consider why it’s there, what it might reveal, and how it fits into the larger mathematical landscape. In mathematics, there’s always more than meets the eye, and the journey of discovery is as important as the final answer.

Article Categories:
Math Olympiad

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