Roman Matches

Roman Matches

Some solutions to problems are literally right in front of our eyes, yet we don’t see the wood for the trees. All you need is a box of matches and some imagination to show how this works.

Guide lines
Ready, Steady, Go!

Put a pile of matches down on a table and call someone over.


Do you feel comfortable around matches… how about numbers?

Lend me your ears


Using as few or as many matches as you want, show me how six is exactly one half of eleven. You can use an equation, make a number or use a Roman numeral, anything… your choice.

Get them to try to figure it out with the matches.


You can use your calculator if you like, but that won’t help… you need to use some lateral thinking. How can six be exactly one half of eleven?

Seal the Deal and Reveal

Once they‘ve given up, use the matches to make an XI – the Roman numeral for 11.


In Roman numerals XI is 11… but if you literally halve XI by removing half the matches…

Remove the top half of the XI, to reveal VI (6 in Roman numerals).


It becomes VI, which is… yep, 6 in roman numerals.

Some extra lines you can try

  • It‘s not safe to play with fire, but numbers are fine.
  • You don‘t need to learn Roman to do this.
  • It was in front of you all along. Now you see the wood matches for the trees.
Alternative ending

Change the story for other people, it works for seven being half of 12 as well.

Anticipated responses and retorts

Did the Romans know about this?

Good question… next time we are in Rome we will ask.

Do all matches lead to Roman numerals?

I see I have met my Roman match.

Did you get those matches at the Seven Eleven?

Close… at the Six Eleven.
Good follow ups
When & where
When to use it
  • When you want to get people thinking outside of the matchbox.
  • When you need to do some match making, er, play with matches.
  • When you want to get the imagination firing.
Where to use it
  • office canteen
  • informal meetings
  • mentoring
  • team building events
  • socializing at the pub
Getting ready
Items required
  • A box of matches
  • Find a flat surface or a table, and haul out your matches.
Training required
  • Try this once by yourself and you are all set.
Watch out (potential unexpected effects)
  • Don't burn anything.

type type

Do It Yourself (DIY)

material material

a bunch of matches

size size

a matchbox will fit in your pocket

durability durability

don't light up too often and the matches should last a while

source source

the ether

time to impact time to impact

pretty much there and then

size of audience size of audience

one-on-one or a small group

possible health risk possible health risk

don’t play with fire

reusable how many times you can use it

just once

training needed training needed

you will be a Roman master in no time

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