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Giant SOMA puzzle

By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics

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The seven-piece SOMA puzzle has been a classic since Piet Hein invented it in the 1930s. The Math Museum has a giant SOMA, one meter on each side, for visitors to play with. This one is stuffed with foam so you can climb on your creations.

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It is easy to glue together 27 wood cubes to make your own set. There are seven pieces to the puzzle — all the possible ways to have at most four blocks and at least one bend. Note that two of the pieces are mirror images.

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Once you make a set of pieces, you can challenge your spatial abilities by assembling them into many different constructions. Here are a just a few things you can make, each with the same seven pieces.

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It is a fun group activity to make a much larger SOMA by assembling cardboard boxes. Instructions are online here.

More:
Math Monday: Tie your bagel in a knot!
Math Monday: Playing card constructions
Introducing “Math Monday”

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor for Boing Boing and WINK Books. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.


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