In this series of posts, I consider how algebra can be used to answer a question about the 2048 game: From looking at a screenshot of the final board, can I figure out how many moves were needed to reach the final board? Can I calculate how many new 2-tiles and 4-tiles were introduced to the board throughout the course of this game? In this post, we consider the event horizon of 2048, which I reached after about four weeks of intermittent doodling:

In yesterday’s post, we developed a system of two equations in two unknowns to solve for and , the number of 2-tiles and 4-tiles (respectively) that appeared throughout the course of the game:

.

In this post and tomorrow’s post, I consider how the two sums in the above equations can be obtained without directly adding the terms.

In this post, I perform this calculation again, except symbolically and more compactly. The key initial steps are writing the series as a double sum and then interchanging the order of summation (much like reversing the order of integration in a double integral). This is a trick that I’ve used again and again in my own research efforts, but it seems that the students that I teach have never learned this trick. Here we go:

The inner sum is a finite geometric series with terms, common ratio of 2, and initial term . Therefore,

The first sum is merely the sum of a constant. The second sum is another finite geometric series with 15 terms, common ratio of 2, and initial term . So

I'm a Professor of Mathematics and a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of North Texas. For eight years, I was co-director of Teach North Texas, UNT's program for preparing secondary teachers of mathematics and science.
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