Skip to main content

Sudoku Enthusiast

Insider Info

If you haven't heard of sudoku, just open up a newspaper, look in the checkout line at grocery stores, or take a peek online. Sudoku looks like a crossword puzzle, but instead of letters, the squares are filled with numbers.

Sudoku is basically a logic puzzle with numbers. The goal is to fill up a nine-by-nine grid so that each row, column and every one of the smaller three-by-three squares in the grid contains the digits one to nine, with each number only appearing once in every row, column and three-by-three square. The puzzles have a few numbers in them to begin with, so you have to work with those numbers.

Sound tricky? Well, it's a bit harder to explain than it is to actually do. But before we get to the inner workings, let's start at square one: how do you pronounce the name of this puzzle?

"I pronounce it 'sue dough-coo,' with a pause between the 'su' and the 'doku'," says Mark Danburg-Wyld. He's the puzzlemaster for an online sudoku website.

The word sudoku is an abbreviation of a longer Japanese saying, which translates to "The digits must occur only once."

Despite the name, sudoku actually has its roots in America. The first published version of the puzzle was printed in 1979. It made its way to Japan in 1984.

It's important to know that if you're not good at math, you can still do sudoku. Sudoku fans say that the fact that you're working with numbers doesn't really impact the game -- you're not adding them up or doing equations! Instead, the puzzle is based on spotting patterns and avoiding repetition. The game could just as well be played with different shapes.

So if it's not about sharpening your math skills, what's the point of doing sudoku puzzles? According to sudoku fans, the answer is simple.

"It's fun!" says Danburg-Wyld. "You can get them at all levels, so you can pick really easy ones for a beginner, and no matter how good you get, you can still find challenging ones. It's a good way to relax but keep your mind active at the same time."

"Sudoku is a nice alternative to crossword puzzles and other word games," says Michele Kerschbaumer. She's a sudoku fan, too. "It uses numbers, so it may look like math, but it's really a logic puzzle -- there are no mathematical operations involved. The rules of sudoku are simple and fairly easy for anyone to learn, but it's more difficult to master, which is what makes it challenging.

"It also travels well, because you won't need tomorrow's newspaper to tell you if you've solved it properly -- you'll know when you've got the right answer, and if you're like me, you won't give up and resort to looking at an answer key, anyway."

Plus it has been shown that problem-solving games like sudoku can help sharpen the mind and even fight some of the signs of aging like a faltering memory.

Some sudoku fans say you shouldn't stop at sudoku. There's a whole other world of fun, logic-based games out there to explore!

"I would actually make the more general recommendation that kids get into all sorts of puzzles and brain-teasers," adds J.P. Grossman, a research scientist who also designs sudoku puzzles. "For those [who] enjoy it, it's a fantastic way to learn about many of the fundamentals of mathematics, strategy and problem-solving.

"Sudoku in particular is a great game because the rules are so simple, yet the puzzles range from the easy to the fiendishly difficult. The strategies, likewise, start with simple application of logic to the rules of the game, then become progressively more complicated as the puzzles increase in difficulty."

Sudoku is a fun hobby because it can be done while enjoying some time alone or as a social group activity. "For me, it's a solitary activity," says Danburg-Wyld. "But I know some people who enjoy working on [sudoku] with a friend. Sometimes people organize contests to see who can solve a puzzle, or a set of puzzles, the fastest. And, of course, if you know someone enjoys sudoku, you can guess that they are reasonably brainy, so it tells you a little about the person."

And don't be turned away by the game looking too difficult. In fact, enthusiasts say it's just the opposite.

"It really is deceptively simple," says Kerschbaumer. "You'd think once you'd mastered the basic technique and were able to solve the puzzle quickly, you'd get bored and move on. But what I've found instead is even almost two years in, I'm developing new ways of looking at it and new techniques for patterns I'd never noticed before.

"I'm no neurologist, but I suspect that sudoku involves some pretty sophisticated skills, some of which take considerable time to develop -- for me, at least -- and be able to apply."

Getting Started

It doesn't take much to get started with this new hobby! Get yourself a pen and a newspaper or hop online. Then let the fun begin!

"I would say to start with newspapers or websites," says Danburg-Wyld. "Personally, I prefer to work them out on paper, so newspapers or sites like mine that specialize in printable versions of the puzzles are best."

When asked where people should start, Grossman replies: "Anywhere they can get their hands on puzzles. There's no better way to learn and practice the basic strategies than doing puzzles, and pretty much any book or website is going to have a supply of beginner-level boards. There are plenty of free puzzles online, so there's never any need to spend money on the game."


World Puzzle Federation


Original Sudoku
Bi-monthly magazine of sudoku puzzles

Sudoku Place
One of many great online sudoku sites

Sudoku Helper
Check out J.P. Grossman's sudoku helper here

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.