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The Pillars of Ashoka

  • Game Designer: Matthew Gudenius
  • Content Area: Math
  • Recommended Ages: Middle Grades
  • Ideal Group Size: Whole Class
  • Suggested Time: 45 minutes

You were all summoned here earlier today after receiving this notice from the chief of the Archaeological Investigations Agency:


You’ve been summoned here to Delhi, India because the local authorities here have reported some strange and mysterious sightings near some of their cherished ancient artifacts here: The Pillars of Ashoka. These were mandates that the ruler Ashoka the Great engraved into stones and pillars throughout his empire as the third ruler of the Mauryan dynasty from 268 to 232 BCE. These edicts give instructions for how people should live their lives according to dharma, the duties prescribed by Buddhism, which Ashoka adopted after seeing the suffering caused by one of his wars.

Nobody knows why these shrouded figures are sometimes emerging near the pillars in the middle of the night; every time they are seen, they disappear back into the shadows, and none have been caught or interrogated so far. This does not appear to be an isolated incident; over the past several months, authorities in other regions of India have also reported groups of shrouded persons approaching the rocks and pillars, or observing from a distance, only to disappear back into the shadows.

Nobody knows the intention of these actions, but authorities fear the worst. Most recently, an antiquated chest was left at base of the pillar in Delhi. Preliminary tests indicate it is not an explosive device, but beyond that, it is locked and sealed so the authorities know neither its purpose nor its contents. That’s where we come in….”

3-DIGIT LOCK = 5-1-2-

4-DIGIT LOCK = 1-3-5-0



  • Inform students that “guess and check” is not going to be the best way to solve the puzzles because there is a lot of information here… they should “follow the breadcrumbs”

  • See “Prerequisites” at bottom of document for required skills/knowledge



To solve the puzzles, students will need to have knowledge of the following:

  • Understanding and calculating exponents (this game involves a puzzle with powers of 2)

  • Fraction math including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of fractions and mixed numbers

  • How to scan QR codes to access websites

Knowledge of reading maps and using cardinal directions (N,S,E,W)




3-digit Lockbox: 512

Word lock: MANTR

4-digit lock:  1350

Directional lock: down, down, up, right


Be sure to print and place the following resources:

  • Ashoka’s Pillar (print as banner on multiple pages; cut and tape together to form one long pillar)

  • Chessboard Clue

  • Map

  • Map Clue

  • Coins

  • Coin Clue

  • Noble Eightfold Path

  • Recipe Clue

  • Success Letter

Invisible Ink

  1. Draw arrows (up, down, left, and right) for directions indicated by those spokes on Eightfold Path diagram

Final Preparations

  1. Place the UV flashlight, Ruler, and Recipe Clue inside the 3-digit lockbox

  2. Affix the Chessboard Clue to the top of the 3-digit lockbox

  3. Post Ashoka’s Pillar on wall

  4. Cut coin slabs along border lines; scatter the 4 slabs to be found in room

  5. Place Noble Eightfold Path on Breakout Box and Map nearby

  6. Map Clue and Coin Clue can be placed in same location, or elsewhere in room (not too hard to find), either flat or rolled into a scroll tied with string.

  7. Place Success Letter inside Breakout Box before securing shut with hasp and three locks




Email info@breakoutedu.com if you have any questions.