Posts tagged ‘Miyamoto’

My 0.04 Seconds of Fame

In 2017, I attended the International KenKen Championship and filmed the final round, which I posted previously on this blog. But filmmakers Louis Cancel, Chris Flaherty, and Daniel Sullivan were there that day, too, and their cameras were significantly more sophisticated than my Samsung S8. Their footage of the competition, coupled with myriad interviews of competitors, organizers, and the inventor of KenKen himself, Tetsuya Miyamoto, has resulted in a new documentary, Miyamoto and the Machine, recently released by The New Yorker. It tells the story of KenKen’s origins and attempts to answer the question, “Can a computer make puzzles as beautiful as those created by humans?”

Many aspects of the film will appeal to kenthusiasts, but my favorite moment occurs at 17:14. Competitor Ellie Grueskin is competing in the finals, and just over Ellie’s left shoulder is a barely visible, occasionally funny, middle-aged math guy holding — wait for it — a Samsung S8!

Yep, that’s me. I’m a star!

You have to ask yourself, what kind of monster would author such a shamelessly self-promotional post and not even provide one KenKen puzzle for the reader to enjoy? Definitely not me, so here you go.

After you solve the puzzle, definitely watch Miyamoto and the Machine. It’s 25 minutes well spent.

January 9, 2021 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

AWOKK, Day 8: KenKen in the Classroom

Eight days a week…

Yes, I know that this series is called A Week of KenKen, and I’m fully aware that there are only seven days in a week. But if the Beatles can love you for an extra day, then I can certainly write an extra post about KenKen. In case you’ve missed the fun we’ve had previously…

Tetsuya Miyamoto created KenKen in 2004. Twelve years later, millions of KenKen puzzles are solved every day by people all over the world.

His original intent was not to create a global math sensation. Instead, he wanted to help his students improve their calculation skills, logical thinking, and persistence. Who knew that he would accomplish both?

KenKen puzzles are perfect for the classroom because they provide the same level of practice and repetition — sometimes affectionately known as drill-and-kill — as a worksheet full of problems, yet providing a significantly higher level of engagement.

Most students would have no more interest in answering the following questions than they would in removing their toenails with a pair of pliers:

Use only the numbers 1-5, in how many ways can you…

  • write 300 as a product of 4 factors?
  • write 40 as a product of 4 factors?
  • write 13 as a sum of 5 numbers?
  • write 12 as a sum of 4 numbers?
  • write 5 as a quotient of 2 numbers?

Yet wouldn’t students be willing to at least try this 5 × 5 KenKen puzzle? The cognitive demand is the same, but as any marketing guru or parent trying to get their kids to eat vegetables will tell you, it’s all about the presentation.

Alex 5x5

Because of the puzzle’s appeal and impact for students, the KenKen in the Classroom program was created. Every Friday, teachers who’ve signed up will receive free puzzles, which can be printed for distribution to students.

KenKen puzzles deal with a lot of mathematics beyond the four binary operations, including factors, parity, symmetry, modular arithmetic, congruence, isomorphism, algebraic thinking, and problem solving. Harold Reiter, John Thornton, and I wrote about these topics and how to use KenKen in a secondary classroom in the article Using KenKen to Build Reasoning Skills.

Even better than solving KenKen puzzles, though, is having students design their own. And to that very point… the 5 × 5 puzzle that appears above was created by my son Alex when he was 6 years old.


I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this week of KenKen posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. I’d love to hear your opinion of the series. Definitely check out the other items in this series with the links at the top of this post, and share your thoughts on all of them in the comments.

September 26, 2016 at 5:05 am 2 comments

Easiest KenKen Ever?

SIgmund FreudSaying that I like KenKen® would be like saying that Sigmund Freud liked cocaine. (Too soon?) ‘Twould be more proper to say that I am so thoroughly addicted to the puzzle that the length of my dog’s morning walks aren’t measured in miles or minutes but in number of 6 × 6 puzzles that I complete. (Most mornings, it’s two.) Roberto Clemente correctly predicted that he would die in a plane crash; Abraham de Moivre predicted that he would sleep to death (and the exact date on which it would occur… creepy); and I am absolutely certain that I’ll be hit by oncoming traffic as I step off the curb without looking, my nose pointed at a KenKen app on my phone and wondering, “How many five-element partitions of 13 could fill that 48× cell?”

I am forever indebted to Tetsuya Miyamoto for inventing KenKen, and I am deeply appreciative that Nextoy, LLC, brought KenKen to the United States. How else would I wile away the hours between sunrise and sunset?

I am also extremely grateful that the only thing Nextoy copyrighted was the name KenKen. This allows Tom Snyder to develop themed TomToms, and it allows the PGDevTeam to offer MathDoku Pro, which I believe to be the best Android app for playing KenKen puzzles.

The most recent release of MathDoku has improved numerical input as well as a timer. Consequently, my recent fascination is playing 4 × 4 puzzles to see how long it will take. A typical puzzle will take 20‑30 seconds; occasionally, I’ll complete a puzzle in 18‑19 seconds; and, every once in a while, I’ll hit 17 seconds… but not very often.

Today, however, was a banner day. I was in a good KenKen groove, and I was served one of the easiest 4 × 4 puzzles ever. Here’s the puzzle:

Easy 4x4 KenKen

And here’s the result (spoiler):

Easy KenKen

4 × 4 KenKen solved in 15 seconds

The screenshot shows that I completed the puzzle in just 15 seconds. And it’s not even photoshopped.

This puzzle has several elements that make it easy to solve:

  • The [11+] cell can only be filled with (4, 3, 4).
  • The [4] in the first column dictates the order of the (1, 4) in the [4×] cell.
  • The (1, 4) in the [4×] cell dictates the order of the (1, 2) in the [3+] cell.

After that, the rest of the puzzle falls easily into place, because each digit 1‑4 occurs exactly once in each row and column.

What’s the fastest you’ve ever solved a 4 × 4 KenKen puzzle? Post your time in the comments. Feel free to post your times for other size puzzles, too. (I’m currently working on a 6 × 6 puzzle that’s kicking my ass. Current time is 2:08:54 and counting.)

August 18, 2014 at 8:11 am 2 comments

About MJ4MF

The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks is available from Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, NCTM, Robert D. Reed Publishers, and other purveyors of exceptional literature.

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