Math Games to Amuse and Confound

Here I am, solidly in my fifth decade of life and it has never occurred to me to play, let alone invent, a math game (in fact, I started to write fourth decade, then corrected myself and still had to doublecheck with my husband. That’ll tell you something about the distribution of mathematical abilities in this house). My children, however, have inherited math genes from their dad and so driving home from school we have conversations like this:

Ben: Think of a number less than 100 but an even ten (ie, ten, twenty, thirty, etc). Don’t tell me.
Me: Got it.
Ben: Multiply that number by two.
Me: OK.
Ben: Add your original number.
Me: Done.
Ben: Now subtract your original number.
Me: OK.
Ben: Divide that by your original number.
Me (starting to lose track): OK…
Ben: Did you get two?
Me, surprised and impressed: Yes, I did!

So, obviously the “add your original number” and “subtract your original number” is a bit of fill, but I’m still kind of impressed that the boy is inventing number games like this since the trick would never even occur to me.

It was inevitable that Eli would want to get in on the act. Here’s how the math games go when Eli invents them:

Eli: Think of a number. Don’t tell me!
Me: OK.
Eli: Equals.
Me: Honey, equals doesn’t change a single number.
Eli: I know! I like equals, it’s so simple! So, come on, equals. Don’t tell me!
Me: OK, equals.
Eli (demonstrating): Now, with your left hand, hold up your pink and ring finger. And with your right hand, put up your pink and your ring finger. And your thumb. Your thumb!
Me (grateful I’m not driving): OK.
Eli: Add the numbers to the number in your head.
Me: Add five?
Eli: Don’t tell me!
Me: I won’t, I’m just checking which numbers to add; my fingers?
Eli: Yeah, add your fingers.
Me: OK.
Eli (losing interest): Now… what happens?

Maybe Eli will be a little bit more like me after all.

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