Is Sudoku Math?



When does something get the intimidating and profound title of “mathematics”?  Does it have to be an obscure piece of formula learned in school- like the quadratic formula- to be math?  Or can math include everything from calculus to InkBall?  Perhaps 2+2 = 4 is arithmetic and not mathematics at all.  Is logic math or is math logic?

I am a firm believer that Sudoku is math.  I guess this assessment is based on how I define “mathematics”.  Before I get any further, I want to point out that I am answering this as a mathematician would.  In math, we strongly rely on how we define our nouns.  We are completely comfortable changing a definition and developing different results.  In fact, we enjoy it immensely.  And I suspect, if you are a mathematician reading this, you will already have a definition of mathematics in your head.  So here is my working definition: mathematics is the process of analytical problem solving within a given set of rules. By this definition, Sudoku is mathematics.

Sudoku without numbers

Sudoku without numbers

But that may not be good logic for the rest of the world.  Sudoku is a logic game.  It should be recognized that we could play the exact same game with 9 different symbols (stars, smiley faces, carrots, whatever) as we do with the numbers 1-9.  It is not the numerals that make Sudoku math.  Every mathematician can play Sudoku well, even if they don’t like the game.  We can think logically and can say “if this and this, then that” without batting an eye.  Math and logic are very closely related.  Sudoku requires a certain organized thinking that is prominent in mathematics.

All you people who are running around proclaiming that Sudoku isn’t math should be ashamed of yourselves!  This is a popular game that everyone is playing.  Call it math!  Even if you don’t believe it to be!  Then I hope people will say, “gasp!  This fun game is math?  Maybe mathematics isn’t so intimidating as I thought.”  This would be the first step to shedding math’s terrible reputation.

About Samantha from SocialMath

Applied Mathematician and writer of
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3 Responses to Is Sudoku Math?

  1. Yes I agree with you and I have noticed some people say they are intimidated to try Sudoku because they think it is math.

  2. i have no idea. i like both maths as well as sudoku.

  3. see says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m trying to reach my goals. I absolutely enjoy reading all that is posted on your blog.Keep the stories coming. I liked it!

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