Last night I went to a game night with the local LGBT Center. Sometimes it’s nice to be in an environment where I know I’ll never be judged for anything other than my bad style (at least by gay men with way more style than I have). At this game night, there was a board game that I’d never seen before: ‘SMATH… so it’s basically scrabble, except for mathematical equations.

Of course, as a mathematician, I wanted to play this game. My friends decided to humor me, and we played.

This game is SO HARD. For me, it wasn’t because of the equations. It was simple arithmetic from elementary/middle school: addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction. You could put anything down, and string as many equations as possible together, as long as they were true statements. The game was difficult because an equation HAS to start with a number, and it HAS to end with a number, e.g. 5+3 = 10 – 2. You can’t start an equal sign or an operation, e.g. =10-2 or +3 = 10. Neither of these make sense. For others, the difficulty is in making truthful statements, i.e. 5+3 = 10 is not a true statement.

The game began simple enough, but then my equations began to interact with player 2’s equations, and player 2’s equations interacted with player 3’s equations, and so on. So figuring out truthful statements in the intricate system on the table before us became difficult, especially when you consider the problem I stated before about the equal signs and the operations.

These difficulties aren’t seen in the original Scrabble. A word is made of letters, and you can play off these letters, and you can lay words next to each other as long as every word exists. You don’t need to know the definition of a word… you don’t need to know the part of speech of a word… you just need to know it exists.

This makes it easier to play. It reminds me of something that I’ve learned while being in graduate school… Mathematics is truth. You can’t just spout something just because you read it somewhere and look like you know what you are talking about. You can’t just put down words that you don’t know the meaning to. You have to know a definition in order to use it properly. You have to know that part the definition plays in relation to what you are proving. You have to make equations and proofs true in order to make sense.

I’m not the best Mathematician that I know, but I do know what mathematics is.. and I appreciate it’s truthfulness. Even if it’s honesty makes it so much more difficult to handle than the fuzziness of stories supplied elsewhere.

Even if you aren’t that great at simple arithmetic (btdubs I’ve lost my skill for simple arithmetic too), you should give the game a try! You’ll have fun, I promise.