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A 'Mod'ern Mathematical Adventure in Call of Duty Black Ops

by Heidi Hulsizer

Year of Award: 2015

Publication Information: Math Horizons, Vol. 21, no. 3, February 2014, pp. 12-15.

Summary (adapted from the MAA Prizes and Awards booklet for MathFest 2015): Familiar linear algebra results work a bit differently when modular arithmetic is involved, but that is exactly what is needed to solve the dial turning challenge in an add-on to the video game Call of Duty: Black Ops. There are four dials, one on each floor of the game. Each time we turn a dial, one or two other dials turn concurrently by a prescribed set of rules for the floors. The goal is for the dials to read 2, 7, 4 and 6 in the end. Heidi Hulsizer enlightens us with a solution that is quite flexible—the result holds no matter the order, so we can fight off the enemies on one floor and turn the knobs whenever it's most convenient. This engaging article showcases that “mathematics shows up in the most surprising places.”

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About the Author: (From the MathFest 2015 MAA Prizes and Awards Booklet)

Heidi Hulsizer has been an Assistant Professor at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia since 2010. She received a B.A. in mathematics from Drury University and both a M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Missouri. Her research interests vary from resolutions of determinantal ideals to statistics education. She also enjoys finding mathematical problems in weird places. In her spare time she enjoys walking her dog with her husband, Brian, and gardening.