Creative Seating Charts

Published by patrick honner on

Suppose an organization is hosting a banquet with tables numbered 1 through 12, and they are looking for a fun, math-y way to get guests to their assigned table.  So, when the guests arrive and find their name-card in the lobby, they must solve a simple math problem to determine their seating assignment.

It’s easy to figure out simple math problems whose answers are the numbers 1 through 12–the tough part is to do it in some uniform way, as with a theme.  For example, a past theme for this event was to use mathematical expressions that only involved the number 4:   thus, ( 4  /  4 ) would be table 1, or ( 4 ^ 4  – 4 / 4 )  /  ( 4 + 4 – 4 / 4 ) would be table x.

My suggestion was to have a string of two of the four letters A,B,C, or D on each card in some order.  A guest’s table number would then be that string’s position in the alphabetical order of all such strings (AB would be table 1, for example).

If you can think of something more interesting, the banquet isn’t until September.  But it’s really 60 tables, not 12.

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


Scott Matthews · August 7, 2010 at 1:37 am

This isn’t “more interesting,” but it just expands on your idea: Just use the alphabetical order of a string of three of the five letters A,B,C,D or E.

I say forget the “simple” constraint and make it fun by giving some AIME-type questions. That would definitely be interesting!

mrhonner · August 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

The order of the combination of three of the five letters {A,B,C,D,E} was my original suggestion.

At one point I was trying to figure out a way to involve an icosohedron, but now I can’t even remember what I was thinking.

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