What Is Digits? A Daily Math Game

Digits Daily Math Game

Created by WordFinder - Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International - CC BY-ND 4.0

Digits is a daily numbers game hosted by the New York Times that tasks players with adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing numbers from a set of six to get as close to a target number as possible. Digits is included in the New York Times Games section of the lauded newspaper, known for its daily crossword and Wordle puzzles.

For fans of brain teasers or amateur mathletes, Digits is a daily fix for putting your arithmetic skills to the test. Every day you are scored based on how well you perform, and everyone can compare their scores as the daily goal is universal, much like other daily word and digital games.

What Is Digits?

Every day, the New York Times publishes five unique Digits puzzles which consist of one goal number and six workable numbers. 

The goal of each puzzle is to combine any of the six numbers through the basic numerical operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, to get as close to the goal number as possible. The closer you get, the more stars you earn for that puzzle.

At the end of all five daily puzzles, your stars are added up, and you’re given a rank. The overall goal is to get as high a rank as possible for a personal challenge or to compare with your friends. 

Since it’s currently in beta form (released April 10, 2023), public testing is in progress for Digits before a full release in an effort to keep the game’s balance somewhere between overly simple and overly complex.

Who Created Digits?

Digits debuted in 2021 as a part of a New York Times game jam, a gathering of video game developers to create small-scale games within a short period with unique concepts or themes. 

The game was designed as a prototype that mimics the game mechanics of two game shows: “Des Chiffres et des Lettres” and “Countdown.” “Des Chiffres et des Lettres,” which translates from French to English as “Numbers and Letters,” features a game that is effectively the same as Digits, with its contestants using the four basic operations to combine six numbers to reach a target number. The British game show “Countdown” expanded the concept from “Des Chiffres et des Lettres” into its own game show with expanded rules. 

The New York Times Games team, helmed by veteran game designer Jonathan Knight, aimed to make a daily puzzle game similar to their already established crossword, mini crossword, and Spelling Bee - Unlimited games but solely focused on numbers and math rather than letters and trivia. 

Originally pitched as a game titled “Order of Operations,” a reference to the mathematical concept of the same name, which structures mathematical problems and formulas, Digits was greenlit and put into early testing following the 2021 game jam.

Development and bug fixes on the game were paused as the New York Times Games team shifted its attention from Digits to integrating the word game Wordle, which was acquired by the Times in 2022. Once Wordle was fully integrated and brought under the supervision of Knight and his team, development on Digits was spun up again. 

Where To Play Digits 

Digits can be accessed and played through the New York Times Games website during its public testing period. It’s been publicly visible in the side banner with a “beta” tag since April 10, 2023, which shows the game is still in development. Once it’s fully released, it should appear alongside all other Times games on their main page.

During its initial testing in 2021, Digits was also available on the NYT Games app for iPhone and Android devices. When the game is fully released, this functionality will likely return.

How To Play Digits

When you open a daily Digits game, you will be presented with five puzzle tabs. Below that is a goal number, six workable numbers, your ranking meter, and a history of operations performed. 

Clicking on one of the puzzle tabs will take you to that puzzle. Each puzzle has a unique goal number and six unique workable numbers.

For example, if the goal number is 318, the six workable numbers might be “5, 6, 9, 11, 15, 20.” The puzzle’s goal will be to combine these numbers using the four basic operations to get as close to 318 as possible.

In this example, one way to reach the solution would be the following:

  1. 20 +11 = 31

  2. 31 + 5 = 36

  3. 36 x 9 = 324

  4. 324 - 6 = 318

The game is purposefully simple, and the team at New York Times Games specifically selects goal numbers and workable numbers that work together to create a challenge. 

Quality-of-life Features

Outside of the core game mechanics, there are three optional quality-of-life features that you might consider using.

  1. Performed operations can be rewound at any time, even after a final result has been submitted. You can use this to undo mistakes or try again for a higher score. 

  2. A feature known as “chain mode” will keep the results of each operation selected for quick use in further operations. This doesn’t change how the game is played at all, as you can still select the other numbers freely, but it might be helpful if you’re the type to plan out several steps in advance. 

  3. The reveal button will show you the most optimal path to reaching the goal number in each puzzle. Using the reveal button means getting the lowest score possible for that puzzle. But, if you’re stuck and want to see the answer, it’s always an available option.

How Is Digits Scored?

Digits is scored on a zero to three-star system.

For each of the five puzzles, you can earn a total of three stars:

  • zero stars are awarded if you give up the puzzle 

  • one star is awarded if you come within 25 of the target number 

  • two stars are awarded for coming within 10 of the target

  • three stars are awarded for hitting the target exactly

Stars are added to your rank meter displayed on the right of the screen. As you gather more stars, you move up through the following ranks:

  1. Beginner | 0 Stars

  2. Moving Up | 3 Stars

  3. Solid | 6 Stars

  4. Nice | 9 Stars

  5. Great | 12 Stars

  6. Amazing | 14 Stars

  7. Genius | 15 Stars

Your rank resets to Beginner at midnight Eastern Time, and five new puzzles are published. 

Tips and Tricks for How To Get to the Digits Daily Number

If you’re looking to get a leg up on your friends or beat your high score, here are some tips to help you with Digits.

Times Tables

Knowing your times tables, or multiplication tables, is not only a valuable skill for everyday business but can help you accurately solve the daily Digits in record time. 

As most of the goal numbers will be higher, getting in the ballpark can be sped up through multiplication instead of addition.

Compare On Paper

Sometimes, finding the best route to the goal takes some trial and error, so you should try making notes on paper or an electronic notepad rather than clicking back and forth.

One of the most accurate but time-consuming methods is adding every number to each other, subtracting every number from each other, etc. until you see a path to the goal. Noting these down instead of clicking back can help you circle back around later to a number you already did the operation for.

Go Big and Subtract

Sometimes, the fastest way to get close to the goal is to get the highest number in as few steps as possible and then use the rest of the numbers to subtract down to the goal.

Look at the Last Digit

Taking note of the last digit in the goal number can help you figure out what number combinations must be used to get to it, especially if the number is an odd number (not ending in 5). If the final number is odd, an odd number must be used in the solution. 

Keep Practicing

Every day, the numbers on Digits will be different, but the more puzzles you solve, the more number combinations you can remember, and the more simple math skills you’ll develop. So don’t get discouraged if your first few puzzles don’t quite hit the three-star mark.

Keep On (Word) Gaming

If you love Digits, you might like some other daily games that have to do with words and letters instead of numbers. Wordle, another New York Times game, is a daily puzzle where players try to guess the 5-letter word of the day. Connections is a daily game where you have to group words based on themes. 

WordFinder and Wordle go hand-in-hand. We have a list of past Wordle answers, the best starting Wordle words, and lists of 5 letter words without vowels to help inspire your daily guesses.
And if Wordle isn’t for you, you can try out our daily digital games as well.

Jakob is a content writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He holds a B.A. in Mass Media and Journalism and is currently studying to receive his M.A. in Strategic Communication. In addition to writing about linguistics and etymology for YourDictionary, Jakob writes and podcasts professionally about culture, arts and entertainment, and history.


See more popular articles