Spotlight on Ohlone:
Teacher brings numbers game to Ohlone

By Japneet Kaur, Photo Editor.

Thursday, September 10, 2009—Reprinted from Monitor.

Though number games have been known to exist as early as the late 19th century, none have been as well known as the now internationally popular Sudoku.

It is another game, however, that has caught the attention of Math Professor Geoffrey Hirsch—KenKen—and it may very well be the next numerical sensation to take the world by storm.

Though a much newer game than Sudoku, invented in 2004 (Sudoku was popularized as early as 1986, in its current form, but did not become internationally famous until 2005), KenKen seems to be climbing the ladder quickly, grabbing the attention of such entities as Time magazine and Will Shortz, who helped introduce the game to The New York Times as a daily puzzle.

Professor Hirsch said he discovered the game at the start of his vacation earlier this year. While browsing for reading material to take along, he happened upon some books of KenKen puzzles. In his own words, he has been a “total addict” ever since.

Progressing from the “easy” puzzles in his books to harder and harder ones—finally trying 7x7, 8x8 and 9x9 this last weekend—he said he hasn’t been able to stop playing since he started a little over a month ago.

“If you can do arithmetic—addition, subtraction, multiplication, division (it’s not even fractions!), you can do pretty amazing things. And logic. Logic is big.”

And KenKen is all about arithmetic and logic. At first glance, the puzzle’s setup resembles that of Sudoku, but another glance corrects that impression.

KenKen puzzles come in different sizes, ranging all the way from 4x4 to 9x9. The numbers to be entered are from 1 to whatever the number of rows/columns. So in a 7x7 puzzle, only the numbers 1-7 will be used. Similar to Sudoku, no number can be used more than once in a single column or row. The blocks are grouped into various shapes of different sizes called “cages.” One block in each cage shows you what you need to do.

For example, one block may have “9+” written in the corner. That means that all the numbers in that cage must equal nine, using addition.

Another block may say “2÷,” which means that all the numbers in that cage must equal 2 by division. More complicated than Sudoku, it is definitely something that will exercise your mind.

“It’s fun, using my mind, it’s exciting.” It is that same fun and excitement that Professor Hirsch wants to bring to Ohlone. The Math Club is hosting a lecture and competition based around the game. This Friday, Sept. 11, Professor Hirsch will introduce an audience to KenKen and talk about several strategies to win the game.

This lecture will be the foundation for the event taking place the next week—a KenKen competition. On Friday, Sept. 18, the Math Club will host the competition. First place wins $30 ; second place wins $20; and third place wins $10.

Though the lecture is free, there is a $3 entry fee for the competition. Both events will take place at 4 p.m. in Room 3201.

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