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The Fifteen Orchards


In the county of Devon, where the cider comes from, fifteen of the inhabitants of a village are imbued with an excellent spirit of friendly rivalry, and a few years ago they decided to settle by actual experiment a little difference of opinion as to the cultivation of apple trees. Some said they want plenty of light and air, while others stoutly maintained that they ought to be planted pretty closely, in order that they might get shade and protection from cold winds. So they agreed to plant a lot of young trees, a different number in each orchard, in order to compare results.

One man had a single tree in his field, another had two trees, another had three trees, another had four trees, another five, and so on, the last man having as many as fifteen trees in his little orchard. Last year a very curious result was found to have come about. Each of the fifteen individuals discovered that every tree in his own orchard bore exactly the same number of apples. But, what was stranger still, on comparing notes they found that the total gathered in every allotment was almost the same. In fact, if the man with eleven trees had given one apple to the man who had seven trees, and the man with fourteen trees had given three each to the men with nine and thirteen trees, they would all have had exactly the same.

Now, the puzzle is to discover how many apples each would have had (the same in every case) if that little distribution had been carried out. It is quite easy if you set to work in the right way.


The number must be the least common multiple of 1, 2, 3, etc., up to 15, that, when divided by 7, leaves the remainder 1, by 9 leaves 3, by 11 leaves 10, by 13 leaves 3, and by 14 leaves 8. Such a number is 120. The next number is 360,480, but as we have no record of a tree—especially a very young one—bearing anything like such a large number of apples, we may take 120 to be the only answer that is acceptable.

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