Mythbuster: Is Math Required For Sudoku?

Hey everyone we’re back again. The topic for this session is “Is math required to solve Sudoku?” And I’m going to bust that myth today.

Before we get started, I want to answer a question on the previous one. Facebook User wrote in and asked, did I take classes for teaching Sudoku? He or she says, “you do such a good job making some of them simple”. I appreciate it, thank you. No, I never took any classes. I have not been trained in being a teacher. I have just been working really, really hard at trying to simplify everything because it works better in my brain if it’s simple. And I figured that it probably works better in everybody else’s brain if I make it simple as well.

So again, today’s topic is mythbusters, and is there math involved? So how many of you have shown the puzzle to somebody and they say, well, is there math involved? You know, what do you have to do to solve this? What kind of math do you have to do?

It is the biggest misconception, I can guarantee you, When I introduce anybody to the game, it is the first question that they ask. Honestly the question makes sense. Because when the first thing you see when you pick up a puzzle is all the numbers on it.

Just the other day, like it was last week. I had a contractor over to the house. He came out to my office that I have here at my home, and he was asking me what I did. And I said I teach people how to play Sudoku. And he says, “what’s that?” I’ll get to that in just a second. And I open a book and I showed him, he says, that’s the first thing he asks is so does it have to add up to anything? And the answer is no, there is no math involved in Sudoku. It is pure logic. You solve everything with logic.

So what do I mean by logic? Do you know some logic statements, some common statements that that happen maybe in everyday life, or you’ve heard of that are logical statements?

I’ll give you one to prime the pump here. So if we were to say all Greeks are beautiful: you are Greek, therefore you are beautiful, okay? That would be a logical statement. We’re making a premise that all Greeks are beautiful, and that you are Greek and therefore we can draw the conclusion that you are beautiful, right?

So that’s a logic statement. There’s a another logic statement we can make. We could say, for example, if I go over to the switch on the wall and flick the switch, the light will come on. And that’s a logic statement.

However, if we really think about that and break that down, there are actually a number of preconditions to that that we have to think about, right? I mean, because you could flick the switch on the wall and the light doesn’t come on.

So you might have to say, for example, if you flick the switch on the wall, and the bulb is functioning the filament’s not broken and it’s not burned out or whatever, then the light will come on.

But then you might have to come up with other things, like if there is electricity going to the switch and there is no interruption between the switch and the bulb and the bulb is functioning, then when you flick the switch, the light will come on, right?

So there’s all these preconditions that you could throw in there. And these are all part of a logic statement. And it, and it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. The interesting thing is that that’s the way a lot of Sudoku is when you get into, especially you get into, harder Sudoku, you actually find there’s a lot of preconditions. Like if this, and this, and this, then I can draw this conclusion.

So again I’ve talked before about why we use numbers. Again, numbers become the biggest misconception biggest part of the problem here because people thinking that it’s math involved because we use numbers. We use numbers for convenience, the numbers one through nine as I’ve mentioned in other videos, you’ve probably heard me say that we can use any nine symbols. We could use the letters A through I, we could use Egyptian hieroglyphics. We could use any nine symbols that we chose to use.

What we’re coming to with the conclusion in the end is that all rows columns and those three by three boxes, I’ll have to have nine unique symbols in them. And there can’t be any repeats or duplicates or anything missing and all of that stuff.

But we use numbers, bottom line, because it’s just convenient, right? I mean, the numbers are easy. So we use the nine numbers, we can count easily forwards and backwards, for example, that’s what’s great about it. I can’t imagine if I had to try to learn how to count or go backwards from I down to A, I could probably do okay when I get to like E, but that that first part, it would be hard for me.

So the interesting thing is that I want to talk to you about this because you might think that logic has some sort of math relation. And there might be, I think probably deep in the study of logic, there might be some sort of math related to this.

But I took a logic course in college. When I went to North Carolina State University I was getting a degree in computer science at the time. And one of the things I had to take was a course on logic. Now, can you tell me what department was the logic course in? Was the logic course in the math department, or maybe was it in the engineering department or maybe it was actually in the computer science department itself, right?

And the answer to that is that it was in none of those departments. The logic course was actually in the philosophy department. I was taught by a philosophy professor in my logic course. So there again logic doesn’t have anything directly to do with math. Now let me give you a little story about that, because I really did well in this logic course, and I’ll explain a couple of reasons why I did well in just a minute.

In the end, I had to do some math at the end of the course, right before the final exam. I wanted to try to figure out what score I would have to get on the final exam in order to get an a in the course. And cause you know, we do that, right? As kids, like why should we try really hard to do really well when we can do less than that.

Anyway, the point of it is, is that I wanted to know, what did I have to do to get an A. And he’d given us the formula. So why we figured it out, you know, I get five points for each of these and all this other stuff. Anyway, the bottom line, and, you know, after the exams counted 20% and this count of data, I realized that I needed to get a 38 out of a hundred in order to get an A on the exam.

And that was one of my little proud moments there. So I could utterly fail the exam and still get an A in the course. And that’s because I had done so well previously throughout the rest of the semester, obviously.

But there was a reason why I did well. I was not born, you know, thinking logic right out of the womb. You know, trying to think logically, why did my mom and dad do this? Why are they putting me through this? I didn’t think any of that. No, none of that stuff happened. And I can’t remember actually being necessarily all logical. I was drawn to computers though. I found them fascinating. I got my first computer when I was 14 years old.

And so by the time I was taking that logic class in college I had been writing software on computers for five or six years. I had actually been writing programs. I didn’t get a computer to play games. I got a computer to actually write programs. And all of those programs actually required logic thinking it wasn’t math that I was doing. It was logic to get the computer to do what I wanted it to do. I had to be very logical about things. And I had to think in a very logical process.

I spent five or six years training myself in logic in order to get to the point where, when I got to that point where I was in college, it was second nature to me.

And the thing about it is that you can do the same thing where you can train yourself with Sudoku. You don’t have to actually learn how to program computers. You don’t have to learn how to be a coder at this point in your life or anything else like that. You could do it with Sudoku. Sudoku actually gives you the ability to think logically.

And the interesting thing is that when you learn, you train your brain to think logically, things get better in your life. I regularly get comments from players, from students who were telling me that their life is better, that they’re actually able to make decisions easier, because when you aren’t thinking logically, you’re probably either thinking emotionally or you’re getting confused easily. And what logical thinking allows you to do is it allows you to sort of order your life, order your decisions, or figure out what’s important first and put that first in your life. And so when you’re presented with a problem in your life, your logic thinking takes over and you’re actually able to order things out and make decisions, make better decisions, make more logical decisions, obviously, and just be better off with your decision-making.

And that actually reduces your stress, because if you’re confused and you don’t know what to do, or you’re making decisions emotionally because, you know, it feels a certain way, and you don’t know whether you’re making the right decision and things like that because you haven’t really analyzed it, then you’re going to be, there’s a lot more stress in your life.

Richard agrees that it one hundred percent carries over into one’s life. Thank you very much for that. Because it really does. So you don’t have to learn how to be a programmer to do this. You just do your Sudoku and get better and better at it. I’ve had people say that “I’m not a logical person” and I get it that people aren’t used to being logical in a lot of ways.

We are not born necessarily that way, but we can all learn it. And if you think about it, everything that you do in life has to have some sort of logic. I mean, think about it, if you were to knit or crochet, if you don’t apply some level of logic to that, you’re going to wind up with a result that you know, if you actually finished something like nobody’s going to want it, it’s going to be ugly. It’s not going to be useful at all.

Let’s say you knit a sweater. If you don’t apply some level of logic, it’s going to be pretty bad. It’s not even going to qualify for the ugly sweater contest. It’s going to be that bad, not even wearable. I mean, if you garden or you do any sport at all, there’s logic.

I’m not a golf player myself, but I’m just thinking, you know, where the ball goes when you swing is not random. I mean, you may think it is, but really it is all about the contact of the club with the ball, right? And if it’s not at the right angle, you know, it’s not going to go where you want it to go, but it is going to go exactly where you hit it towards.

Use Sudoku to get better at your life and to have more success in your decisions. And no, Sudoku is not math. If you’re bad at math, you can still be great at Sudoku, okay? So don’t worry about that. Thanks a lot. This ran a little bit longer than I think I wanted it to, but I kinda got off on my logic course there, but anyway, I really appreciate your joining me this time.

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Robert Barker