Math Monday: Paper Polyhedra

Math Monday: Paper Polyhedra

By the Museum of Mathematics


If you’ve never made a set of the Platonic solids from paper, perhaps it’s time to try it. These shapes are the foundation for many aspects of three-dimensional design. Here is a set made with open faces, but the openings are strictly optional. You can just cut out regular polygons and tape them together so every vertex is identical, e.g., putting five triangles at each vertex leads to the icosahedron.

After mastering the five Platonic solids, there is a world of more complex models to explore. The polyhedron below consists of twelve regular pentagons and twenty (very slightly irregular) hexagons. It is made by cutting out paper polygons and taping them together on the inside. This design is often confused with the truncated icosahedron shape that is well known because of its use as a soccer ball.  But this shape is the truncated rhombic triacontahedron. To see the difference, notice that there are some vertices here with three hexagons and no pentagon, but in a soccer ball there is one pentagon and two hexagons at each vertex.

And if you become engaged in discovering the world of polyhedra, you will encounter the many additional families, including the stellated icosahedron below. Their intricacies can be quite a challenge to make from paper, especially when some components meet just at points.  I made the model below over thirty years ago, starting from a template in the book Polyhedron Models by Magnus Wenninger. If you want your models to last this long, be sure to use acid-free paper.

[Article by George Hart for the George Hart for the Museum of Mathematics]

10 thoughts on “Math Monday: Paper Polyhedra

  1. girlfromhaiti says:

    can’t wait to try this with seed beads.

  2. tom says:

    this is retarded, taping paper together is a good way to get irregular shapes. it’s fine for little models to check symmetries and whatnot, but there are better ways to make decorative polyhedra. or you can just buy a set of dice from your local d&d store.

  3. MAKE | Math Monday: Live-In Polyhedra says:

    […] last Math Monday’s theme of building polyhedra, let’s turn to the opposite end of the spectrum from paper […]

  4. Math Monday: Live-In Polyhedra | House of Mods says:

    […] last Math Monday’s theme of building polyhedra, let’s turn to the opposite end of the spectrum from paper models: […]

  5. THERE IS SIMPLICITY in the Order of the Complexity | The "3D Metric" Universe says:

    […] Math Monday: Paper Polyhedra ( […]

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance 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 to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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