Shark's Dinner

Fish Fish Fish

_ _ _ _ _

You Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Shark Thanks


The objective is to work out what mathematical word or phrase has been replaced by dashes by suggesting letters that might be in that word or phrase. Each time you choose a letter that is not in the word or phrase the shark will get a little closer to eating its dinner. Click a letter button above to begin.

Statistically speaking, which letters are the most likely to be in the word or phrase? See the Transum Code Cracking presentation for more information.

Shark's Dinner can also be played as a two player game. A player continues selecting letters until they select one that isn't in the word. Then the other player starts their turn. The winner is the player who completes the word.

The game could also be played by a whole class with this page being projected onto the whiteboard. Students in the class could be split in to teams taking turns to guess a letter.

The solutions to this and other Transum puzzles, exercises and activities are available here when you are signed in to your Transum subscription account. If you do not yet have an account and you are a teacher, tutor or parent you can apply for one by completing the form on the Sign Up page.

A Transum subscription also gives you access to the 'Class Admin' student management system, downloadable worksheets, many more teaching resources and opens up ad-free access to the Transum website for you and your pupils.

For this particular activity a subscriber also has the facility to enter their own words for use in the game. This allows the content to be customised for the learner's particular needs.


What does a mathematical shark eat for dinner? Check the answer here.


Sara, 8S

Monday, March 6, 2017

"If you get the answer correct then something funny should happen like instead of the shark chasing the goldfish, the goldfish could chase the shark.

[Transum: That's a great idea Sara. For now you will see the goldfish get bigger, look happy and the shark swims away. You get a polite 'thank you' too from the goldfish. Your real reward however is getting ten words correct. You will than be offered a priceless virtual trophy!]"

Alderman Bolton CP, Twitter

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Miss O'Donoghue, The London Oratory School.

Friday, February 4, 2022

"I agree with Sara's suggestion. The result of a correct answer should be more entertaining than getting it wrong. Otherwise someone will always want to call out "x" and "z" and other unlikely letters."

Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for those learning Mathematics anywhere in the world. Click here to enter your comments.

What is the best strategy for this game? In what order should you choose letters? The obvious answer would be to find a list of the most common letters used in the English language and use this as your letter selection order.

You may be surprised to hear that this is not necessarily the best strategy. Words of different lengths will have different letter frequencies. Also when you have established whether are particular letter is or isn't in a word your next choice should be affected by that knowledge.

Tom Whipple is the science editor for The Times in London and in an eposode of the Freakonomics podcast he talked about his book How to Win Games and Beat People in which he discusses strategies that might be used when playing games similar to Shark's Dinner. Here is an extract from the podcast:

Tom Whipple's Strategies





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The fish tank has been adapted from code kindly provided by Dhiraj kumar.