A Numbers Game

This mathematical sleight of hand is circulating on the Internet via e-mail these days. A friend of ours in California forwarded it to us in Boston. We were delighted and thought readers would be, too.

Do all the steps in order, and do not skip ahead!

1. Pick a number from 1 to 9.

2. Subtract 5.

3. Multiply it by 3.

4. Square the number (multiply it by itself).

5. Add the digits until you arrive at a one-digit result. (Example: if your number is 64, 6 plus 4 equals 10, 1 plus 0 equals 1.)

6. If the result is less than 5, add 5. Otherwise, subtract 4.

7. Multiply by 2.

8. Subtract 6.

9. Match the digit to a letter of the alphabet: 1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, and so on.

10. Pick a name of a country that begins with that letter.

11. Take the second letter of the country's name you chose and think of an animal that begins with that letter. (Hurry!)

12. Think of the color of the animal. Got it? Now read the upside-down answer.

Answer: You've got a gray elephant from Denmark. Haven't you?

How it works: All of the mathematical operations are designed simply to turn any number from 1 to 9 into 4. (Try them all and see.) For some reason, when people are pressed to name a country starting with D they think of Denmark. (Can you think of some others?) When asked to think of an animal that starts with an E, they think "elephant." Or eel, perhaps?

As in much of the material (mostly jokes) that circulates rapidly on the Internet, there was no author or attribution with this trick. Does anyone out there know anything more about this trick? If you do, please e-mail us at:


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