Monday, March 14, 2016

An Excellent Way to Celebrate Pi Day

Contestant #37
In conjunction with their Math Moves! exhibit, the Pacific Science Center in Seattle hosted a KenKen tournament last Saturday, March 12th. Normally held in New York, annually in December, the contest was held on the west coast for the first time ever. I was there not only as your faithful correspondent but as contestant #37.

There was a total 51 contestants plus a small group of spectators. I was the only one there representing the media, the event having escaped the attention of KOMO News located directly across the street.

KenKen is a puzzle invented in 2004 by math teacher Tetsuya Miyamoto and can be found in the puzzle section of most major newspapers. You can also play it online at or by downloading an app to your mobile device. The first U.S. KenKen tournament was held in March 2009 in Brooklyn, with Miyamoto in attendance.

The coveted prize
Math genius
The tournament consisted of three rounds of three puzzles each. Each round was twenty minutes long. 1,000 points were awarded for each correctly completed puzzle and additional points were awarded by how quickly all three puzzles were completed. At the end of three rounds, the top three scorers were invited to solve giant puzzles placed on easels so that all could watch their math genius.

I was roughly the 15th person to complete all three puzzles in the first round but only managed to complete two puzzles in the second round and only one in the third. I scored a total of 5,070 which means that one of the six puzzles I completed must have contained a mistake. 70 points were awarded for time. The top score was 10,110 - 6,000 for six correctly completed puzzles plus 4,110 points for time. I finished in 27th place.

It was math geek heaven. Not only did I get a free pencil out of the deal, I got to meet Bob Fuhrer who is the man responsible for bringing the game to the United States and figuring out how to make money from it. And even though it was a couple of days early, it was an excellent way to celebrate Pi Day.

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