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Unleashing The Devil's Plan: How Mathematical Thinking Steals the Show and How You Can Play Along

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

Shayla Heavner

MathBait Founder


A girl working on math homework

"When will I ever use this?"


Every math teacher has heard this question. Honestly, as a math teacher myself, I don't always have a good answer. Most students will never need to explain the end behavior of a higher-order polynomial in their day-to-day life. However, that doesn't mean I think students shouldn't learn what a higher-order polynomial is and how it behaves. The truth is, mathematics is much more than what we see on standardized tests. Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world around us. It is a subject that can be applied to any and every area of our lives. So although a student may never see that exact topic they are studying, we absolutely should teach them to understand it! When students work through mathematical concepts they begin developing ideas and connections in their brain that will apply to their daily life, make them excellent problem-solvers, and help them to work with abstract or incomplete information.


Mathematics is a way of making sense of the world around us.

Imagine my joy when I came across a Netflix series that excels at demonstrating the power of mathematical thinking! I knew I had to share not only the show but also one of the games with the MathBait community. I have to admit, this game may be the most frustrating in our catalogue of over 100 digital games (think the final level of Super Mario Odyssey frustrating), but that also makes it so much fun! It certainly can be challenging. If you have a math-lover or problem-solver in the family, this is your pick for the next game night. We hope you enjoy learning more about The Devil's Plan and playing along with our new game Scales.


The Devil's Plan

Image of a man in a mask surrounded by cards with the title "The Devil's Plan"
The Devil's Plan on Netflix

A Korean reality television show, The Devil's Plan has contestants cohabitate for one week, competing in a prize match and an elimination match daily. All in all, it is another Survivor or Big Brother but with a huge twist: math. It also spares viewers the normal reality show drama and instead presents a fun group of exceptional players who build genuine friendships and bonds over a short time.


The game is filled with hidden puzzles and clues, where everything including the prizes won and the items that fill their living areas are hints that can further their game. But the big ticket is the matches.


When players enter a match they exit their posh accommodations and enter a dungeon-like area. At one point, contestant Orbit describes the threshold effect which states that a person tends to forget something more quickly after crossing a boundary. It's that feeling of entering a room and forgetting why you are there. Was this an intentional psychological design of the game? I'm not sure, but we've learned something new already.


Once in the match area, contestants are taken through the rules (often quite complicated) of the game. Although the games range in variety they all have one thing in common: problem-solving.


While we wont spoil the ending, we will say that the last players standing are the self-identified "mathematicians" and their variety of skills are demonstrated throughout all 12 episodes of this amazing show.


The Devil's Plan isn't a math game. So why are the mathematicians the ones who end up on top? It's back to that age-old question, "when will I ever use this?". While it's true that many topics covered in middle and high school math are not likely to come up in the day-to-day life of non-STEM majors, the process of learning and understanding mathematics does something quite amazing to your brain.


Making Connections

If someone asked "what is mathematics?" how would you answer? In truth, many describe mathematics as the art of recognizing patterns. Functions are simply a way to create or model relationships between two groups. This is commonly known as cause and effect. And whether or not you notice it, human beings use this skill every minute of every day.


We weigh pros and cons, we make decisions based on known information, and we infer what we can based on common understandings. You make a choice to go left or right based on perceived traffic. We understand that a car accident causes backups which can throw off our schedules and that eating that doughnut has a certain risk-reward matrix associated with it.


Math Knowledge is Brain Power

In our first book, Marco the Great and the History of Numberville, an overarching theme is that numbers are everywhere. Although most of us never notice them, numbers are all around controlling our world. Understanding mathematical concepts builds connections in your brain that allow you to become a better problem-solver and make better decisions when faced with difficult situations. In short, math knowledge is brain power. Just like you exercise your body, exercising your brain has incredible long-term benefits and supporting your students in not only understanding mathematical concepts, but developing a love and respect of numbers will provide them with skills that will drastically aid in their success.


Play Along with The Devil's Plan?

I highly recommend The Devil's Plan. Not only is it a fun and entertaining show, it is a great demonstration of how problem-solving and mathematical abilities can be translated to a wide variety of situations. In fact, in showing my husband an episode he responded, "I think I could get smarter by watching this".


The Devil's Plan also embodies the MathBait philosophy. We believe that learning should always be fun and our program is built on the idea that students can develop a much stronger understanding through play. Rather than one-dimensional practice problems in which students demonstrate a specific skill, our games bring together various real-world components to create a three-dimensional understanding. We nourish the full brain, helping students to make not only mathematical connections, but build the problem-solving skills that will last a lifetime.


Although watching The Devil's Plan is fun, participating would be a blast! Are you ready to play along with us? In true MathBait fashion, we went to work to create our own digital interpretation of The Scale Game (Episode 8). Not only can this provide hours of family fun, in playing you strengthen your brain power and improve your mathematical skills. Talk about win-win.


Don't forget to grab your copy of Marco the Great and the History of Numberville and join The Kryptografima to help your students become amazing mathematicians.


Marco the Great and the History of Numberville is a groundbreaking new way to learn and love mathematics. Rather than a dry textbook, students are taken on a mathematical adventure in this one-of-a-kind novel. In addition, students can jump directly into the pages by logging on to The Kryptografima, an innovative platform that allows students to practice their mathematical skills with over 100 thought-provoking games. In The Kryptografima, students complete missions to collect items and earn XP unlocking new levels and concepts along the way. The MathBait program is perfect for both advanced learners and struggling students as it provides a new perspective and a fun way to help your elementary and middle school students strengthen their mathematical understanding all while having a blast.



The Scale Game

In this cooperative game, players work together to identify the weights of five (5) unknown minerals. Teams take turns placing mineral blocks on two scales and using the results to determine how much each mineral weighs and to ultimately balance the main scale.


Setting Up

Scales can be played individually, with others on a single team, or with players split into two (2) or three (3) teams. If playing with younger students we recommend trying one team at first or creating teams with varying mathematical and problem-solving abilities.


Assign each team a number. For instance, if playing with three (3) teams, assign a team to be Team 1, Team 2, and Team 3.


Teams should navigate to their own room or separate area to avoid overhearing other team strategies. Teams will need to communicate their play at the end of each round. A walkie-talkie, telephone, or intercom can be used to achieve this.


Open The Scale Game on a device in each room. We recommend using a fairly large screen like a tablet or computer and utilizing the full screen mode for the best experience.


On the game screen, move the slider to select the number of teams playing and declare your team number. Each team must have a unique number (for example there cannot be two teams assigned to 'Team 2').


Team 1 will be provided with a game code. Game codes consist of a number followed by five (5) letters and ending with a second number string such as 3CDJZY822. Team 1 should use their communication device to broadcast the game code to the remaining teams. All other teams will see an area where they may input the game code. Make sure to enter the correct code. All codes are in all caps.


When ready to begin play, all teams should select the forward arrow ➡️ . The screen will provide the order in which your team will play (first, second, or third) as well as the information on one mineral. A team should broadcast the given mineral information to ensure all teams have entered the same game code. All teams should have the same given mineral information. For example, "The Yellow weight is the fourth heaviest and weighs 18 grams".


Select Play to begin round 1.


Game Play

A total of sixty (60) mineral blocks are divided evenly and provided to each team. The number of teams will determine how many blocks are distributed. For example, if playing with only one (1) team, Team 1 will receive all 60 mineral blocks, whereas if playing with three (3) teams, each team will receive 20 mineral blocks.


The sixty (60) mineral blocks are equally divided into five (5) minerals represented by different colors. All teams receive an equal number of each block. If playing in three (3) teams, each team will receive four (4) of each mineral type to total their twenty (20) blocks. Minerals are represented by colors: purple, blue, pink, yellow, and green.


Each mineral weighs between one (1) and twenty (20) grams inclusive and all minerals have a weight that is a Natural number. That is to say, the least a mineral can weigh is 1 gram and the most a mineral can weigh is 20 grams and no minerals have a fractional weight such as 3.25 grams.


Two scales are provided: a main scale and a secondary scale. On each turn, a Team must decide which minerals to place and what scale to place their minerals on. Teams must place at least two (2) minerals on each turn, but may place as many as they would like.


Note: the scales will not 'rebalance' until a team ends their turn. That is, a team cannot place a yellow block, for instance, examine the effect, and then use this to determine where to place their next block on the same turn.


On Your Team's Turn

When it is your Team's turn, use the information you have gathered to determine what minerals you would like to place and where to place them.


Select the mineral's color from the drop-down menu provided. Click on the ✅ to confirm your choice. Note, if the ✅ does not appear, this indicates you have made an invalid entry. For instance, if you have already used all your purple blocks, a selection of purple would be invalid.


An arrow will appear over each scale platform. Select the arrow to indicate where you would like to place your mineral. If you do not see an arrow over a platform, this indicates you cannot place your mineral on that scale. For instance, each scale can hold at most twenty (20) mineral blocks, if a scale is full you will not be able to place a new block.


The mineral will be placed on the scale selected. Teams will then be prompted to select their second mineral and placement. After the minimum of two minerals have been placed, teams are asked if they would like to place another block (yes) or end their turn (no). Selecting yes will allow teams to place another block, selecting no will end their turn and balance the scales. Teams will be able to see the impact of their new blocks.


Broadcast your placement (and only your placement) to the other teams via your communication device. For instance, "Team 1 placed a Purple mineral block on the Main Scale Left and a Pink mineral block on the Main Scale Right".


On Other Team's Turns

During other team's turns, players will see a similar screen that asks them to enter the playing team's selections.

MathBait game Scales showing how player's enter team moves

After entering all the other team's selections the scales will rebalance allowing all teams to use this new information to help accomplish their goal.


Winning the Game

To win the game teams must work together to balance the main scale. The secondary scale does not need to be balanced and is used as a tool to gather information.


When the main scale is balanced, on a Team's turn, they may select Declare to enter the weights of all minerals. If they correctly identify all mineral weights, teams have won Scales! If even a single mineral is incorrectly identified, play continues and no information on what mineral was correctly or incorrectly identified is given.


Teams are not able to make a declaration unless the main scale is balanced. If a team no longer has at least two minerals to place, they are out and play continues until the remaining teams can no longer place a mineral. If all teams can no longer play and the main scale has not been balanced and the mineral weights correctly identified, the game ends in loss.


Rules

  • Teams must place at least 2 mineral blocks on any scale in each turn.

  • If a Team does not have enough minerals to place 2 blocks, they are out and play passes to the next team with available blocks.

  • A maximum of twenty (20) minerals can be placed on each scale. Players will not be able to place more blocks on a full scale.

  • Scales cannot have exactly the same combination. For instance, if the Main Scale Left contains two (2) purple minerals and one (1) green mineral and the Main Scale Right contains one (1) purple and one (1) green mineral, players will not be able to place another purple mineral on the Main Scale Right.

  • Mineral blocks cannot be removed. Once a block is placed, it is locked in.

  • Teams can only play blocks they have in their possession. A count is provided at the bottom of the screen. If a Team's number of available green blocks is zero (0), selecting to place a green block will not display the confirm ✅ as it is not a valid move.

Inference

In order to win, Teams will need to infer information from each round and use this to determine what blocks to place and where. For example, suppose there is one (1) purple mineral on the Main Scale Left and two (2) pink minerals on the Main Scale Right as well as one (1) purple on the Secondary Scale Left and one (1) pink on the Secondary Scale Right. The scale tilt shows us that the two (2) pink minerals are heavier than the one (1) purple mineral and the one (1) purple mineral is heavier than the one (1) pink mineral.

MathBait Scales game demonstration of main and secondary scales

From this, teams can infer that 2k>p and p>k, where p is the variable for the weight of the purple mineral and k is the variable for the weight of the pink mineral. When narrowing down the mineral weights, players can use this information to know that the pink mineral must be more than half the purple mineral's weight.


In this game, the given information was that purple weighs 18 grams. Thus, this placement of the mineral blocks allows teams to determine that the weight of the pink mineral is such that 9<k<18, or the pink mineral weighs more than 9 grams and less than 18 grams.


Hints, Tips, & Variations

As more blocks are added to the scales, a clearer picture can form, but this picture can be difficult to see. Make sure each team and player has access to paper and pencil to take notes as the game progresses. Use inequalities, as shown above, to write comparisons between the different minerals. As more information is acquired, these notes will help to weed through the details.


Less variables will help. Consider using the variables p for purple, b for blue, k for pink, y for yellow, and g for green to document the information you have inferred. Try to avoid introducing new colors until clear relationships have been established. When lots of mineral blocks begin to fill the scales, try to equalize the weights to learn new relationships. For example, if the left scale has three (3) blue minerals, two (2) green minerals, and one (1) yellow mineral and you are looking to find the relationship between purple and yellow, consider placing an equal number of blue and green minerals by placing three (3) blue minerals, two (2) green minerals and one (1) purple mineral on the right scale. This will allow teams to determine the relationship between yellow and purple even though the scales contain many blocks.


While our digital game Scales does not include timers, consider adding a timer element only allowing each team a certain amount of time to place their blocks to increase the intensity and speed of the game!


Let's Play Scales!

To play along with The Devil's Plan, we recommend tuning into episode 8 to watch the players in action, then try it with your friends and family in our app below! It is sure to be a good time. Like all MathBait games, Scales offers unlimited play. Families can enjoy this down and dirty problem-solving bonanza again and again with new mineral weights each time.

Our Game

I had the pleasure of trying out Scales with my two daughters (ages 13 and 16) and we had a blast! We played with three teams but decided not to separate and worked together to problem-solve. Luckily, we happened to balance both the main scale and the secondary scale (although that isn't required to win) and my daughter had the chance to enter in our winning declaration. Not only do I recommend checking out The Devil's Plan with your family and of course snagging your copy of Marco the Great and the History of Numberville and joining us for all the fun in The Kryptografima, I also encourage you to play a round or two of Scales! Lots of laughter, figuring out, and quality time is such a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I'll sign off here will some screenshots of our messy notes and winning game!



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