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Battleship, Probability, and More

As I sat playing Battleship the other day, I got to thinking about how many concepts of math I was using as I played. (For those not familiar with the game, Battleship involves trying to guess where your opponent’s ships are located on a grid.)

To begin with, I used numbers to identify the columns on the grid, combined with letters to identify the rows.

When hunting for my opponent’s aircraft carrier, I knew the carrier takes up 5 spaces…which meant my opponent’s carrier couldn’t be hiding anywhere with less than 5 spaces. I also knew that when I hit the carrier, I needed to continue guessing the spaces around my hit until I’d located all 5 spaces upon which the carrier sat. I was doing a lot of counting as I played.

Since the aircraft carrier takes up 5 spaces and the battleship takes up 2, I knew the carrier should be easier to find. But why is this? Well, on the very first guess, there’s a 5/100 (which reduces to 1/20) probability of hitting the carrier (there are 100 spaces total, 5 of which have the carrier on them), and a 2/100 (which reduces to 1/50) of hitting the battleship.

While we don’t often think of the math used in games, it’s there none-the-less. Even games can turn into teaching opportunities. Math isn’t a mere textbook exercise, but rather a way of describing real-life consistencies God created and sustains. It’s a practical tool we use all the time…even when playing a game.

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