Can math improve your creativity?

Lots of books on creativity suggest using your subconscious to help you come up with better creative ideas by putting away what you’re working on and doing something different.

Assuming you’re working on an ad, an app, a game, a website or some other kind of creative project, you’ve been using your brain’s right hemisphere. So my question is if we did something that uses our left hemisphere, would our subconscious get better quality alone time to come up with something brilliant?

If you’re like me – you think in words and images – and numbers are a foreign language requiring a part of our brain we don’t use so often. If numbers were more natural to us, maybe, we’d have chosen a career in Finance/Wall Street or at Google Labs . The point is since numbers are pretty alien to us, I think playing math games during a break may help copywriters and art directors come up with better creative.

Here’s a math game I learned recently called 24.

First remove all the face cards from a deck of cards. To play, take four cards from the top.

Then calculate “24” from the numbers on the four cards using a combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

Try to do it in your head. No paper. Here’s several examples below. I’ve included the solutions in gray, but try to work it out yourself first.

Then if you haven’t given yourself a migraine from doing more math than you have since you took the SATs, go back to the creative problem you’ve been working on and see if you come up with something unexpected. If you do, please let me know.

Subtract 4 from 10 to get 6

Divide 8 by 2 to get 4

Multiply 6 times 4 to produce 24

To write it as an equation, it’s (8 / 2)  x (10 – 4) = 24


First take 7 from 8, that’s 1

Now take that 1 from 9, that’s another 8

Then multiply that 8 times the 3 to get 24

Or the whole thing in equation form is 3 x (9 – (8 – 7)) = 24

Sometimes there’s more than one solution.

You could take 8 from 9, that’s 1

Now add that 1 to 7 to make 8

Multiply that 8 times 3, that’s 24

As an equation it’s 3 x (7 + (9 – 8)) = 24

Add 6 plus 9 to make 15

Add that 15 to 10 to get 25

Takeaway 1 from 25 to make 24

9 + 6 + 10 – 1 = 24

Multiply 3 times 9 to get 27

Subtract 5 from 8, that’s 3

Subtract that 3 from 27 to get 24

 (3 x 9) – (8 – 5) = 24


Divide 9 by 9, that’s 1

Add that 1 to 2, that’s 3

Multiply that 3 times 8 to produce 24.

8 x (2 + (9 / 9) = 24


Of course there’s an app for 24. Go check out iTunes. But don’t use any apps that include face cards or numbers over 10. It messes with the purity of the game.

Here’s more information about 24, which is worth reading if you want to not so suck at this.


Posted at 10:36 am on Tue, Dec 28, 2010

 Math n’ Stuff photo: Divine Harvester


About Robert Moss

I write ads: traditional, non-traditional, interactive, edutainment, story-based, broadcast, and experiential marketing events. Sometimes I write about ads and the business of advertising. Sometimes I write about other stuff. The views expressed here are solely my own and don't reflect the views of my employers. I also published a novel called Descending Memphis that's getting great reviews on Amazon. see
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