Michael Reid (http://www.math.ucf.edu/~reid/index.html) posted these questions on Nobnet recently. I’m reposting them here.

Consider two rules for modifying a positive integer:

i) replace a substring of its digits by the square of the number represented by the substring

ii) if a substring is a perfect cube, replace the substring by its cube root

Neither the substring being replaced, nor the string replacing it may have leading zeroes.

For example, starting with 123, we may square `23′ to obtain 1529. Then we can square `29′ to get 15841, then square `5′ to get 125841, and then we could take the cube root of `125′ to get 5841, and so on.

What is the smallest number we can obtain from the number 2011 with a sequence of these operations?

Now suppose the two operations are instead

iii) replace a substring by its cube

iv) replace a substring which is a square by its square root

What is the smallest number we can get with these operations if we start from 2011?

Here is another “digit operations” puzzle that I hope you will find a nice challenge.

Consider two rules for modifying a positive integer:

i) replace a substring of its digits by 7 times the number represented by the substring

ii) if a substring is a perfect 7th power, replace the substring by its 7th root

Neither the substring being replaced, nor the string replacing it may have leading zeroes.

For example, starting with 347, we may replace the substring `34′ by `238′ (multiplying by 7) to obtain 2387. Then we can multiply the substring `3′ to get 22187. Now we can take the 7th root of `2187′ to get 23, and so on.

What is the smallest number we can obtain from the number 2011 with a sequence of these operations?

Now suppose the two operations are instead

iii) if a substring is divisible by 7, we may divide the substring by 7

iv) replace a substring by its 7th power

(which are the reverses of operations i) and ii) above).

What is the smallest number we can get with these operations if we start from 2011?