Science -- Your Future, Scotland's Future
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Geometric Puzzles
SCI-FUN Roadshow Exhibits -- Geometric Puzzles
In this exhibit you learn about how shapes can fit together to form other shapes.

In this exhibit you have a chance to try out three geometric puzzles, the Chinese Puzzle, the Three Rings and Packing Squares. Did you manage to solve them?

Geometric puzzles challenge us: they make us think logically and often the solution is not the obvious way we would think of to solve them. (“Geometric” means “to do with shapes”.)

We encounter puzzles all the time. Even packing up a car to go on holiday can be thought of as a puzzle. You normally have a number of bags and boxes of different shapes, to fit into the irregular shape of your boot. Sometimes the best way to fit them in might not be the most obvious.

Jigsaw puzzles are a common kind of puzzle. In most jigsaws we try to put together a picture from pieces of different shapes. However some, much harder, jigsaws don’t have a picture, or just have a repetitive pattern, so you can only use the shapes of the pieces to put them together.

Sudoku is a different kind of puzzle. In Sudoku we have to fit numbers into a grid so a number appears in a row, column or block only once. This kind of puzzle tests our logic, but does not make use of geometric shapes.

One of the most well known puzzles is the Rubik’s cube, invented in 1974 by Ernõ Rubik. In a Rubik’s cube you have to twist the faces of the cube, until each face of the cube is all one colour. Rubik’s cubes are incredibly hard to do. Most of us will fiddle with a Rubik’s cube for hours on end, without seeming to get anywhere, but some people can solve Rubik’s cubes in less than ten seconds.

1 In the Geometric Puzzles exhibit you tried out the Chinese Puzzle, the _________ Rings and Packing _________.
2 What does “Geometric” mean?
3 How is packing up a car like a puzzle?
4 If there isn’t a picture, what can we use to solve a jigsaw?
5 Why is Sudoku not a geometric puzzle?
6 What skills do puzzles help to develop?

1 Can you make your own geometric puzzle? Draw out a geometric shape on squared paper, then divide it into different pieces. Make sure you can’t see how the pieces might fit together from their shapes. Now cut them out and use them as templates to cut identical pieces from coloured card. Challenge someone else to fit the pieces into the original shape.
2 Try out some more geometric puzzles. Search on the internet for puzzles you can print out. You might also find 3D puzzles in Christmas crackers, or in toy shops.