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Math-play with your food

By George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics

Making things with your food is an age-old pastime. Here are two mathematical constructions made from crackers.

Pythagorean-crackers-5-12-13.jpg

This illustrates the Pythagorean Theorem for a 5-12-13 right triangle. The number of crackers in the two small squares (25+144) equals the number of crackers in the square on the hypotenuse (169).

Pythagorean-crackers-3-4-5.jpg

With triangular crackers, this 3-4-5 right triangle illustrates a more general idea. The number of crackers in the two small triangles (9+16) equals the number of crackers in the large triangle (25).

Here is an introduction to the Pythagorean Theorem, with two simple proofs, and here is a detailed explanation of why this generalization works.

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