Atomic Number

I learned this one from Sarah I., who was President of the Culver City Teen Center Youth Commission back in 2004. This game is a lot like Polar Bear in that the answer to the riddle is a bit deceptive. This game is great for high school students and adults who think they can do math.

Materials: None

Area: Table or room

Objective: Given any number, relate it to the “Atomic Number” which is always “4”.

How To Play: The leader of this game knows the secret. Someone calls out a number, any number. For simplicity at first, keep the numbers between zero and 99. The leader must relate that number back to the Atomic Number. The game ends when everyone in the group can demonstrate that they know how to reach the Atomic Number. The following is an example of how to play, then I will tell you what the trick is.

Example: A participant calls out a random number between 0 and 99. In this case, they call out “11”. The leader says, “11” is “6”, “6” is “3”, “3” is “5”, “5” is “4” and “4” is the Atomic Number. As you try to figure this out, here is the trick. There are no advanced math equations going on here. The trick is in the number of letters in each number. “11” has six letters– E-L-E-V-E-N. That’s why “11” is “6”. “6” has three letters– S-I-X. That’s why “6” is “3”. You get the idea. Everyone who plays thinks there is some deep pattern they need to decipher.


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