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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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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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