Polyominoes, Rubix, and Emmy Noether

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

Check out the Pentomino Project, a website devoted to all things about polyominoes by students and teachers from the K. S. O. Glorieux Ronse school in Belgium.

Their site is full of lots of useful information about polyominoes, such as what the different polyominoes look like and how they are formed.

In this puzzle, place the twelve pentominoes as "islands in a sea" so that the area of the sea is a small as possible. The pentominoes can't touch, even at corners. Here's a possible solution.

Even more awesome, though, is their collection of polyomino puzzles – about dissections, congruent pieces, tilings, and more!  They have a contest every year  - and people from around the world are encouraged to participate!  If you solve a puzzle, you can send them your solution and they might post it on their site.

Next, have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, I wonder if I can make my own Rubix Cube?”  Well, sixth grader August did just that.  And, after several days of searching for patterns and working hard with paper, scissors, string, and tape, August succeeded!  His 2-by-2 Rubix Cube works just like any other, is fun to play with, and – even better – was fun to make.

Try it yourself:

Finally, ever heard of Emmy Noether?  It’s not surprising if you haven’t, because, according a New York Times article about her, “few can match in the depths of her perverse and unmerited obscurity….”  But, she was one of the most influential mathematicians and scientists of the 20th century – and was named by Albert Einstein the most “significant” and “creative” woman mathematician of all time.  You can read about Emmy’s influential theorem, and her struggles to become accepted in the mathematical community as a Jewish woman, in this article.

Want to learn more about women mathematicians throughout history?  Check out this site of biographies from Agnes Scott College.

Bon appetit!

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