The Numbers

Time to intrigue your colleagues or customers with a number puzzle that is deceptively clever. It has been said by many wise businessmen that it is all about the numbers and what this exercise demonstrates is the numbers don’t always add up.

Guide lines
Ready, Steady, Go!

Print or hand-write the following set of numbers below one another on a piece of paper:

1000 30 1020 1000 40 1000 10

When you are ready take out the paper with the numbers. Use another piece of paper or notepad to reveal only one line of the numbers at a time.


You up for a bit of counting? Nothing too tricky, just add up the following numbers as I reveal them… and give me the answer?

Lend me your ears

You should see them start to concentrate as soon as the first number is revealed.


Here we go…

Reveal the numbers one line at a time, nodding and acknowledging each time they get the correct answer.

Seal the Deal and Reveal

Then reveal the last number: 10. They should give you their total: 5000.


Sorry, 4100. It works just about every time.

They may want to run through the numbers again. Reveal how the final tally is in fact 4100.


So close.

This should create a knowing nod or smile.

Give them the numbered piece of paper to try out for themselves on another person.

Some extra lines you can try

  • Hey, maths can be a puzzle at the best of times.
  • Just don’t use this as an excuse with the taxman.
  • That’s life - sometimes the numbers don’t add up.
Alternative ending

If available on your computer, use a text to audio option that enables your computer to read out the numbers in a Stephen Hawking computer voice.


Even Stephen Hawking would have to concentrate to get this one right.

Anticipated responses and retorts

How does that work?

If Einstein were still around we could try ask him.

Anyone ever get it right?

Only a few people. But 9 out of 10 they do what you and I just did.

Who comes up with this stuff?

Again, only Einstein may know.
Good follow ups
When & where
When to use it
  • When you are wanting to get someone’s attention.
  • When in a social setting at work and you want to get people chatting.
  • When you want people to think and discuss - this one always gets people curious.
Where to use it
  • office
  • sales meetings
  • management sessions
  • customer visits
Getting ready
Items required
  • a piece of paper with numbers printed on it
  • a pen and paper if you don’t have the numbers printed out
  • something to cover the paper with the numbers
  • Whip out your piece of paper and you are all set.
Training required
  • Practice covering up the numbers as you reveal them one at a time - you will nail this in no time.
Watch out (potential unexpected effects)
  • Accountants may get a bit freaked out.

type type

Do It Yourself (DIY)

material material


size size

could even be printed on the back of your business card

durability durability

paper flies away - so hold on to it

source source

a talented man in London

time to impact time to impact

pretty much there and then

size of audience size of audience

one-on-one or in a group of up to 4100 people

possible health risk possible health risk

the taxman may not like this one

reusable how many times you can use it

once per person or group

training needed training needed

just know how to add, and you are in the game

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This one works wonders - the numbers never lie.