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Toothpick Puzzles

The Goalpost Puzzle

The Goalpost Puzzle

The Puzzle Corner activity this week is an adaptation of a classical matchstick puzzle from recreational mathematics. As has been noted before in this column, these puzzles date back to the nineteenth century when matches were first manufactured and began to proliferate. Most matchstick puzzles can be broken into two general categories: those that are geometric in… Continue Reading

Arrow Arrangements

Arrow Arrangements

This particular puzzle comes from The Moscow Puzzles. The puzzle is found in the section entitled “Geometry with Matches,” which offers a selection of matchstick puzzles as “geometrical amusements that sharpen your mind.” Arrow Arrangements is one of the more difficult puzzles in this section, and requires students to understand and apply some basic geometric… Continue Reading

Toothpick Puzzlers

Toothpick Puzzlers

This week’s activity consists of five related puzzles that should challenge students. Matchstick (I have substituted toothpicks) puzzles have been a staple feature of recreational mathematics for years. The puzzles presented here were adapted from some that appeared in The Moscow Puzzles by Boris Kordemsky (available from Dover Publications, Inc.) This type of puzzle often requires patience… Continue Reading

The Three-to-Five Triangle Puzzle

The Three-to-Five Triangle Puzzle

This week’s Puzzle Corner activity comes out of a rich historical tradition that dates back to the 19th century when matches were first manufactured. Invented in 1827 by the British chemist John Walker, matches soon replaced the tinderboxes that people had formerly used to light fires. As matches grew in popularity and became ubiquitous later… Continue Reading

Reducing Squares

Reducing Squares

Reducing Squares belongs to a category of puzzles called “matchstick puzzles” which were very popular in America during the last century. Most adults in those days carried small boxes of matches with them to light the many candles or lamps in their homes. Many of these same people had a favorite repertoire of matchstick puzzles… Continue Reading

Flipping Fish

Flipping Fish

This puzzle has been around in various forms for a number of years. All forms begin with eight toothpicks or matches arranged in the shape of a fish. One version challenges you to move exactly three toothpicks to make the fish face the opposite direction. Another version challenges you to move just two toothpicks to… Continue Reading