How to win at Monopoly (and other life hacks using maths!)

tips strategy win monopoly
Looking to refine your Monopoly strategy? Mathematician Lily Serna shares her top tips using maths. (Image Shutterstock)

Celebrity mathematician Lily Serna lets us in on some of her everyday life hacks using maths – including tips for how to improve your game strategy and win Monopoly!

This is an edited extract of Curious: Life Hacks Through Maths by Lily Serna (Pan Macmillan Australia; RRP $29.99)

Hack #1: Win at Monopoly

There is a heap of mathematical data out there about how to win Monopoly. Even though a lot comes down to the roll of the dice, there are mathematically proven strategies you can adopt  that have been shown to increase your chances of winning. I’m going to break it down for you to  a few simple rules to follow.

Which properties to buy?

Most people think the best properties are the ones with the highest rent. In fact, this isn’t true, and it’s because you are more likely to land on some properties than others.

For example, there are cards in the ‘Chance’  and ‘Community Chest’ piles that sometimes send people to certain squares, which increases the probability that a player will land on that square. Plus – and you may not be thrilled to hear this – Jail is one of the most probable places to end up. This is not only because players can land in ‘Just Visiting’ but because there are several different ways to end up in Jail, including rolling three doubles in a row, landing on the ‘Go To Jail’ square and pulling out a Chance card that sends you to Jail. This means that the orange and red properties, which are the most likely to fall within a double-dice roll of the Jail square, are generally the best investments because they have an increased chance of being landed on.

And I’m only getting started.

Here’s a list of properties that you should and shouldn’t buy, and why:

  • Railroads: you should buy these with the aim of getting three or four, or at least to stop your opponents getting a set. Railroads offer consistent income and become a cash cow.
  • Don’t bother with utilities (unless you can get a good deal for them off your opponents).
  • Forget about Park Lane and Mayfair. Park Lane’s expected return brings down the average income of the navy-blue sets because it’s the least visited square in the game.

Secondly, where you focus your investments depends on how many people are playing:

  • If you’re playing against two other people, buy blue and orange properties.
  • If you’re playing against three other people, buy red and orange properties.
  • If you’re playing against more than three others, get the green properties.

Knowing the chance of you or the other players landing on a square is only the beginning of the story, because there is, of course, money involved.

By the way, this analysis doesn’t account for house rules (i.e. rules that your friends/family
make up and agree to).

Hack #2: How to order pizza

Ordering pizza is the ultimate crowd-pleaser – and it’s way easier than cooking. But have you ever argued about whether you should order two mediums or one large-sized pizza? As it turns out, that decision is easy – the maths says that ordering the biggest pizza is the smartest thing to do because, for a few more dollars, the large pizza is often twice, yes twice the size of a medium pizza.

I’ll use my local pizza shop as an example.

Their medium pizza is 8 inches (20cm) and costs $12. Their large pizza is 12 inches (30cm) and costs $15, i.e. it costs 25 per cent more than a medium pizza. But am I getting 25 per cent more pizza for my extra cash? We can figure this out with some basic formulas.

The diameter of a circle (and a pizza!) is the distance from one side to the other passing through the centre. In the case of pizza, the diameter is often found in the title: a ‘12-inch pizza’ is called that because it has a 12-inch (30cm) diameter.

The radius of a circle is the distance from the centre of the circle to the edge – half of the diameter.

Why do we need to know these things? Because they’ll help us to calculate the area (i.e. the size) of a pizza. The area of a circle is equal to the number pi multiplied by the radius squared. So how does this look when we apply it to our pizzas?

The 8-inch (20-cm) pizza, which costs $12, is around 50 square inches (just over 300 square cm), while the 12-inch pizza (30cm; $15) is over 113 square inches (700 square cm). So, a 12-inch (30cm) pizza is more than twice as big as an 8-inch pizza (20cm), but it’s only 25 per cent more expensive.

It’s a no-brainer! Always get the largest pizza: it’s the responsible thing to do.

This article originally appeared in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2020.

READ MORE: 3 maths lessons everyone is getting from the COVID-19 pandemic

STEM Contributor

Author: STEM Contributor

This article was written by a STEM Contributor for Careers with STEM. To learn more, please visit our contact page.

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