[JOB POSTING] Math Adviser @ Caine’s Arcade

Caine’s Arcade tells the story of a nine year-old in East Los Angeles who made a functioning arcade — games, tickets, prizes, etc. — out of cardboard. He’s a scrappy underdog. He also needs your students’ help with math.

1. Fun Pass Economics

Nirvan Mullick:

I asked [Caine] how much it was to play. He was like, “For one dollar you get four turns. But for two dollars you get a fun pass.” Well how many turns do you get for a fun pass. “You get five hundred turns for a fun pass.” I got a fun pass.

Your students could probably lend a hand there.

2. Fun Pass Security

Caine installed calculators on all the games. Why? In order to validate the fun passes. He has a number on one side of the card. You type that number into the calculator, press “the check mark,” and another number comes out — a number that Caine thinks is totally unpredictable. So Caine writes the output number on the other side of the card and, thus, the fun pass is validated.

Resist the urge to editorialize about how our students think all of math is a fun pass validator. Instead, have your students show Caine how his system can be fooled and then suggest alternate methods for validating the cards.

Benefits? Not great. Pay? Not great either. Apply at the manager’s office, just past the cardboard skee ball machine.

2012 April 11. Aaaaand … cue the forged fun passes.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Can we just throw in here, that Caine’s check-mark thing is supremely brilliant. In fact, I don’t think it’s ever failed! Inaccuracies aside, he has a personal attachment to that mechanism, and when it comes up for him again, he will have a well established understanding to reference.

  2. Caine doesn’t actually think the check-mark is totally unpredictable. He figured out that it’s deterministic: it always gives the same answer for the same input. I’ll bet he also knows the check-mark for the next fun pass is a little bit more than the last one.

    What I’m really curious about is whether or not Caine just skips over the square numbers when he builds the Fun Passes, because clearly those numbers are less secure than the others.

    By the way, this is an absolutely great way to introduce logarithms to students: let them beat on the LOG button, recording information until they figure out some rules. “Hey, log 4 is twice log 2. So log 6 must be three times log 2… no…” Then, once they think they know the rules, ask them to “be the calculator” by using the answers they know to come up with things like log 15, log 36, log 50…

  3. I laughed. I cried. I was reminded to notice how smart kids are. I immediately thought of a bunch of questions to ask Caine.

    Then, I thought that absolutely nothing should be changed about Caine’s Arcade until Caine becomes dissatisfied with it. Caine doesn’t need me to advise him. I need Caine to advise me.

  4. As soon as I heard Caine’s pricing scheme, I thought, this dad is rad! He obviously allowed it and did not interfere. What an opportunity for learning and growth. How many parents out there might snuff out such a wild idea and crush a kid’s creative spark?

  5. I find it ironic that the guy who made the video started a scholarship fund for Caine. Nice gesture, but at the rate he’s going, he can either earn enough to pay for college, or win a scholarship.