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A cube has 12 edges

A cube has 8 vertices

Let us make a cut parallel to the base of the cube. We get two solids. If we make another cut parallel to

the base, we get three solids. For n cuts mutually parallel to the base (or any other face), we get n+1

solid pieces.

If we make one cut parallel to the base (say x-axis) and another cut perpendicular to the first cut (say y

axis), the second cut will divide each of the two solids we get from the first cut into two pieces. We get

total 4 pieces or 4 parts of the initial big cube. Similarly, another cut parallel to both the previous cuts (z-

axis) will further divide these 4 pieces into two pieces each, thus making the total pieces as 8. When we

analyze this, we see that when we make X mutually parallel cuts along x-axis, Y mutually parallel cuts

along y axis and Z mutually paralel cuts along z axis we get (X+1)*(Y+1)*(Z+1) pieces of the original

cube. X cuts along x itself will produce X+1 pieces and when we cut each of those pieces with Y cuts, each

of them will produce Y+1 pieces and similar with Z cuts.

in y axis and Z cuts in z axis =

(X+1)*(Y+1)*(Z+1)

Note that, all the pieces will not necessarily be cubes. They can be cubes or cuboids. All the pieces are

cubes when X = Y = Z and all the cuts are equidistant.This is the scenario when the number of cuts are

given to us. Sometimes, we are given the sum of X + Y + Z instead of individual values.

When we are given total number of cuts, the cuts can be made in any axis. Say if we make total 12 cuts, all

12 can be in x-axis, or 6 in x and 6 in y-axis etc. For a given number of cuts, we can have a number of

combinations. We get the minimum number of pieces when all the cuts are made in the same axis. If we

make all 12 cuts along x-axis, total 13 pieces are formed. All other combinations will result in more than

13 pieces. Let’s say, 11 cuts along x-axis and 1 cut along y. The total number of pieces formed is

(11+1)*(1+1) = 24.

In order to get maximum number of pieces with given number of cuts, divide the total cuts equally among

the three axis. If we divide 12 cuts equally among the three axis, we get 4 cuts in each axis resulting in

(4+1)*(4+1)*(4+1) = 125 pieces overall. But what if the total number of cuts cannot be divided equally

among the three axis. For a number like 14, we cannot distribute equally among all thethree axis. In such

case, to maximize the total number of pieces, we need to minimize the difference between the

number of cuts in any two axis is minimum. For 14 cuts, we can divide it as X = 5, Y = 5, Z = 4. Any

other combination of numbers will result in a lower number of pieces. If we analyze, we see that in case of

equal cuts, the difference between the numbers of cuts is zero that results in the maximum number of

pieces.

The question can also mention the total number of pieces formed after a certain number of cuts. We need

to find the number of cuts in different axis based upon the requirement of the question. Suppose, a cube

is cut into 10 pieces. Now 10 = (X+1)*(Y+1)*(Z+1). Now 10 is to be represented as the product of 3

numbers or factors. We can have, 10 = 1*1*10 or 1*2*5.

Minimum numbers of cuts is obtained if we factorize the number of pieces into three equal factors. If

three equal factors are not possible, then we should minimize the difference between the numbers.In case

of 10 pieces, 1*2*5 gives minimum difference between factors.

To maximize the total number of cuts, all the cuts are made in one axis. For instance, for 10 pieces, factors

are 10*1*1 that means the x-axis cuts are 9 and no cut is made in other two axis.

The most common type of cube question is painting the faces of the cube. Let us say, a cube is painted

black, then it is cut into 64 pieces by 3 cuts in each directions. As we can see, there are 4 rows of 16 pieces

1. Number of cubes with 3 faces painted black = all the corner cubes which is equal to 8 cubes.

2. Number of cubes with exactly 2 faces painted = (n-2)*(number of edges) = (4-2)*(12) = 24.

3. Number of cubes with exactly 1 face painted red = cubes on the faces (except on the edge and

the corner) = (n – 2)2*6=24

4. Number of cubes with 0 faces painted black = (n-2)3 = 8

The number of cubes that remain unaffected with the painting are those, which are not on the outer side.

In other words, if we remove the outer painted shell then the inner structure is what we desire or we

reduce the dimension of the cube by 2 units (remove a painted layer from all the sides or faces) to get a

inner cube of side dimension = n-2 units.

If the number of cuts are not equal, let’s say if X =5, Y = 6, Z = 7, then:

1. Number of cubes with 3 faces painted black = all the corner cubes which is equal to 8 cubes.

2. Number of cubes with exactly 2 faces painted = (X-2)*4 + (Y-2)*4 + (Z-2)*4 {since 4 edges will

have each of (X-2),(Y-2),(Z-2)}= 12 + 16 + 20 = 48.

3. Number of cubes with exactly 1 face painted red = cubes on the faces (except on the edge and

the corner) = 2*[(X-2)(Y-2) + (Y-2)(Z-2) + (X-2)(Z-2)] = 2*(12 + 20 +15) = 94

4. Number of cubes with 0 faces painted black = the inner cuboid = (X-2)*(Y-2)*(Z-2)= 3*4*5 = 60

In the previous case, we saw the case when all the faces are painted with the same color. The question can

also paint faces with a different color. Let us say the three pair of adjacent faces are painted with with Red,

Blue and Green respectively. The cube is cut into 64 identical cubes with identical number of cuts along

the three axis.

We make the following observations:

1. Number of cubes with all the three color faces = 2 cubes diagonally opposite to each other.

2. Number of cubes with only same color faces on two faces = three edges without corner cubes =

3*(n-2) = 6

3. Total cubes on the edges = 4*n + 8*(n-2) = 32

4. Number of cubes with only 2 color faces = total cubes on edges – same color on two faces cubes

– all three color face cubes = (3) – (2) = 32 – 6 – 2 = 24

5. From the above observation, we can say cubes with only Red and Green faces or only blue and

green = 24/3 = 8

6. Number of cubes with exactly one face red = cubes on the two faces of the painted red surface =

2*(n-2)2 = 8

7. Number of cubes with faces only red = (2)/3 + (6) = (n-2) + 2*(n-2)2 = 10

8. Number of cubes with exactly one face painted = 6 faces with (n-2)2 cubes painted on one face =

6*(n-2)2 = 150.

9. Number of cubes with exactly two surfaces painted with different colors = 9 edges with (n-2)

cubes = 9*(n-2) = 18

It is a useful approach to make the cube diagram on the paper while solving the question. Cube is a 3-D

figure and becomes challenging while solving without a figure, hence it is highly recommended that you

make a cube figure while solving the cube questions.

Cubes can also be painted like opposite sides with similar colors or each layer with a different layer. The

approach to every kind of question depends upon visualization of the figure. The 2-D diagram would

assist a lot in solving but one needs to think more on the three faces hidden in the figure. Cube, being a

symmetrical figure allows us to think in symmetrical terms in majority of the questions.

Another type of cube question is the numbering of the smaller cubes after cutting the larger cube.

Remember, the concept of cut could also be framed as ‘125 identical cubes are placed on one another in a

manner such that they form a larger cube’,the approach for these questions would remain the same as

discussed. Let us say there are 125 identical unit cubes numbered from 1 to 125 combined to form a

larger cube to side 5 units. The cubes are always placed from left to right in ascending order of their

numbers starting from the bottommost layer and the first row. After placing the first row, the next row is

placed behind the first row such that the first cube of the next row comes directly behind the first cube of

the first row. After completing the bottommost layer, the next layer is placed in a similar way the first layer

was placed. Find the sum of the numbers of the cubes placed at the vertices.

From the above statement, we know that each row have 5 unit cubes. Let us make the bottom most layer

of the larger cube.

1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10

11 12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19 20

21 22 23 24 25

Layer 1 (bottommost)

26 27 28 29 30

31 32 33 34 35

36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45

46 47 48 49 50

Layer 2

From the above placement of cubes we see that in bottom most layer cubes numbered 1, 5, 21, 25 are the

vertex cubes. The topmost layer will have the other 4 cubes. To get the numbers of those cubes, we can

either draw all the five layers or from the pattern we see that the last cube is a multiple of 25 in every

layer. So the last cube in layer 4 will be 100. Let us draw the fifth layer.

106 107 108 109 110

111 112 113 114 115

116 117 118 119 120

121 122 123 124 125

Layer 5 (topmost)

The other 4 cubes are 101, 105, 121, 125. The sum of the 8 cubes is (1+5+21+25+101+105+121+125) =

504. If we want to save time, we analyze that the sum of the opposite vertex cubes is 126 or from the first

layer itself, the sum of the diagonal cubes is 25*(layer number) + 1.

Type 1:

Cube problems: A cube is given with an edge of unit ‘N’. It is painted on all faces. It is cut into smaller

cubes of edge of unit ‘n’. How many cubes will have ‘x’ faces painted?

In these types of questions, the first thing that we need to figure out is the number of smaller cubes. For

this, we look at one particular edge of the big cube and figure out how many smaller cubes can fit into

this. It will be N/n. So, the number of smaller cubes will

A cube has 6 faces and none of the smaller cubes will have all faces painted. As a matter of fact, none of

the smaller cubes will have even 5 or 4 faces painted. The maximum number of faces, which will be

painted on a smaller cube, will be 3. This will happen only in the case of the smaller cubes that emerge

from the corners of the big cube.

For 2 faces to be painted, we will have to consider the smaller cubes that emerge from the edges of the

big cube (leaving out the corners). So, the smaller cubes on every edge will be

For 1 face to be painted, we will have to consider the smaller cubes that emerge from the face of the big

cube (leaving out the corners and the edges). So, the smaller cubes on every face will be

There are 6 faces in a cube.So, number of smaller cubes with 1 face painted

For no face to be painted, we will have to consider the smaller cubes that emerge from the inside of the

big cube (leaving out the outer surface which was painted). Imagine this as taking a knife and cutting a

slice of width ‘n’ from every face of the cube. You will be left with a smaller cube with an edge of ‘N-2n’.

Number of smaller cubes that you can make from the resulting cube is

So, number of smaller cubes with 0 face painted

Eg 1: A painted cube is given with an edge of 15 cm. Smaller cubes are cut out from it with an edge of 3

cm each. How many cubes will have 3 faces painted, 2 faces painted, 1 face painted and no face painted.

2 faces painted: Consider an edge of size 15 cm. We have removed the corners that take away 3 cm from

each corner of the edge. Now our edge is of 9 cm. 3 cubes of 3 cm each can come from it. There are 12

edges. So, there will be 3 x 12 = 36 cubes.

1 face painted: Consider a face. If we have removed 3 cm from each edge of the face, we will be left with a

square of side 9 cm or area 81 sq cm. There can be 9 smaller squares that can be formed on that face with

an area of 9 sq cm each. These 9 will be the cubes which will have 1 face painted. There are 6 faces. So,

there will be 9 x 6 = 54 cubes.

No face painted: Cut slices of 3 cm each from each face of the cube. We will be left with a smaller cube of

edge 9 cm. Number of smaller cubes that can be formed from it is (9/3)3 = 27. So, 27 cubes will have no

faces painted.

You can use this to verify the formulas above and also note that 8 + 36 + 54 + 27 = 125. This means that

there is no need to find out all four using the formula, just find any three of them and the other would

emerge by using the total. In an exam, this might save you some valuable time.

Type 2:

Matchstick Game: You are playing a matchstick game with Mr. Bond. There are ‘n’ matchsticks on a table.

On a player’s turn, he can pick any number of matchsticks upto ‘p’ (p is typically quite smaller than ‘n’).

Whosoever picks the last matchstick loses the game. It is your turn first. How many matchsticks should

you pick (assuming that you are smart and will play to win) that you will always win?

First remove 1 matchstick from consideration, as that would be the matchstick that Mr. Bond will pick and

lose the game.

After that if Mr. Bond picks ‘r’ sticks, you should pick ‘p+1-r’ sticks and you will win the game.

Eg 2: There are 105 matchsticks on a table and a player can pick any number of matchsticks from 1 to 10.

The person who picks the last matchstick loses the game. You are playing the game against Mr. Bond and

it is your turn first. How many matchsticks should you pick in the first turn such that you always win the

game?

Let us look at few scenarios, in which you have picked 5 sticks and there are 100 sticks left on the table. It

is Mr. Bond’s turn now.

Round ID Mr. Bond Picks Sticks Left You Pick Sticks Left

Round 1 5 100 – 5 = 95 10 + 1 – 5 = 6 95 – 6 = 89

Round 2 8 89 – 8 = 81 10 + 1 – 8 = 3 81 – 3 = 78

Round 3 7 78 – 7 = 71 10 + 1 – 7 = 4 71 – 4 = 67

Round 4 4 67 – 4 = 63 10 + 1 – 4 = 7 63 – 7 = 56

Round 5 10 56 – 10 = 46 10 + 1 – 10 = 1 46 – 1 = 45

Round 6 8 45 – 8 = 37 10 + 1 – 8 = 3 37 – 3 = 34

Round 7 1 34 – 1 = 33 10 + 1 – 1 = 10 33 – 10 = 23

Round 8 2 23 – 2 =21 10 + 1 – 2 = 9 21 – 9 = 12

Round 9 9 12 – 9 = 3 10 + 1 – 9 = 2 3–2=1

As only 1 stick is left, Mr. Bond will have to pick it and lose the game. I recommend, that you try out such

scenarios with a friend. Nothing validates a concept more than a real-life implementation, especially if it is

on a bet. J

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