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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 a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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