Three Boys
Two mathematicians, who are old friends, meet in the street.
Alan: Hi, Bill. I hear you just adopted three boys. How old are they?
Bill: If you multiply their ages together you get 36.
Alan: I can't work it out from that.
Bill: Well, if you add their ages together, you get the number of the house you used to live in when you lived in Salisbury.
Alan: Hmm, I still can't work it out.
Bill: Well, the eldest boy plays the harpsichord.
Alan: Ah! Now I know.
How did Alan work out the ages of the three boys, and what are their ages?
HintLook at all the combinations of ages that give 36 when multiplied together  there's not as many as you might think.
Even though WE don't know the number of Bill's old house, presumably he and Alan do.
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Answer
Their ages are 9, 2 and 2.
There are eight possible combinations that have a product of 36. Each combination has a unique sum, except for two; 6,6 and 1, and 9, 2 and 2. They both add up to 13. Since Alan still couldn't solve the problem even after being effectively told what the sum was, we must assume the number of the house was indeed 13.
Being told the ELDEST plays the harpsichord tells us there IS an eldest, so the combination must be 9, 2 and 2.
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Comments
toby
Oct 12, 2001
 There could still have an eldest even if two were aged 6 
peterbradfor
Nov 01, 2001
 If the three boys had been Bill's natural children, we could be sure that at 1, 6 and 6 there would still be an eldesteven if only by a few minutes.
However, don't forget we are told they are adopted and hence it is possible that two 6yearolds could be IDENTICAL in age. Only with 2, 2 and 9 can we be sure there is an eldest.

Mike1313
Nov 01, 2001
 There could be, but it is not a sure thing. 
(user deleted)
Feb 05, 2002
 Or the 3 boys were all aged 12 
Drunky
Apr 04, 2002
 no becuz then it wouldnt multiply to 36 
joe8049
Aug 13, 2002
 What about 491
oldest boy is then 14...could be the house number. 
metallicman
Nov 14, 2005
 I got 2 3 and 6 2 times 3 is six six times six is 36
anyways, good teaser, thoroughly enjoyed. 
morning_rain08
Jan 06, 2006
 I was thinking the same thing as metallicman... 
calmsavior
Aug 27, 2006
 i already solved this from a math textbook. i hope it still counts. 
LeafFan4life
Mar 06, 2007
 wait why couldnt he just tell him why did he have to ay all this stuff and make him figure it out isnt that kind of mean? 
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