Tag Archives: game

Harriss Spiral, Math Snacks, and SET

Happy New Year, and welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

The Harriss Spiral

Exciting news, folks! The Golden Ratio curve– that beautiful spiral that everyone adores– has evolved. And not into a freak of nature, either! Into something– dare I say it?– even more beautiful…

Meet the Harriss spiral. It was discovered/invented by mathematician and artist Edmund Harriss (featured before here and here) when he began playing around with golden rectangles. A golden rectangle is a very special rectangle, whose sides are in a particular proportion. You can read more about them here— but what’s most important to this new discovery is what you can do with them. If you make a square inside a golden rectangle you get another golden rectangle– and continuing to make squares and new golden rectangles inside of ever-shrinking golden rectangles, and drawing arcs through the squares, is one way to make the beautiful golden ratio spiral.

Edmund Harriss decided to get creative. What would happen, he wondered, if he cut the golden rectangle into two similar rectangles (same shape, just one is a scaled-down version of the other) and a square? And then what if he did the same thing to the new rectangles, again and again to make a fractal? Edmund’s new golden rectangle fractal makes this pattern, and when you draw a spiral through it, you get a lovely branching shape.

But don’t take my word for it. Math journalist Alex Bellos broke the news just this week in his article in The Guardian. His article explains much, much more than I can here– check it out to learn many more wonderful things about the Harriss spiral (and other spirals that Harriss has created…)!

(Bonus: Here’s a GeoGebra demonstration created by John Golden that builds the Harriss Spiral. It’s awesome!)

Next up is a site that sounds quite a lot like Math Munch. But it’s all games and cartoons, all the time. (Maybe that means you’ll like it better…) Check out Math Snacks, a site developed by a group of math educators at New Mexico State University. They worked hard to create games and animations that are both fun and full of interesting math.

One of my favorite games on Math Snacks is called Game Over Gopher.In this game, you have to save your carrot from an army of gophers by placing little machines that feed the gophers. Where’s the math, you may wonder? Placing the gopher-feeders and the other equipment that can help you save the carrot requires you to think carefully about geometry and coordinates.

Finally, speaking of games, here’s one of my favorites. I love to play SET, and I recently found a way to play online– either against a friend or against the computer. Click on this link to start your own game!

To play SET, you deal 12 cards. Then, you try to find a group of 3 cards that all share and all don’t share the same characteristics. For example, in the picture to the right– do you see the cards with the empty red ovals? They’re all the same shape, shading, and color (oval, empty, red), but they’re all different numbers (1, 2, and 3). Can you find any other sets in the picture? (Hint: One involves purple.)

Want to hone your SET skills without competing? Here’s a daily SET puzzle to challenge you.

Enjoy the games (and maybe invent a spiral of your own) and bon appetit!

Weights, Crazy Geometry Game, and Pumpkin Polyhedra

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

Weighing puzzleHere’s a puzzle for you: You have 12 weights, 11 of which weigh the same amount and 1 of which is different. Luckily you also have a balance, but you’re only allowed to use it three times. Can you figure out which weight is the different weight?

You certainly can! I won’t tell you how, but you can figure it out for yourself while playing this interactive weight game. This puzzle is tricky, but definitely fun. If one weight puzzle isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck– there are many, many variations! Check out this site to try a similar puzzle with nine weights, ten weights, and 27 weights.

Circle two pack

My solution to the Circle Pack 2 challenge. Can you do it in only 5 moves?

Next up, if you like drawing challenges, this is the game for you. Check out this crazy geometry game, in which you have to draw different shapes (like perfect equilateral triangles, squares, pentagons, and groups of circles of particular sizes) using only circles and straight lines! Here’s my solution to one of the challenges, the Circle Pack 2. See the two smaller circles inside of the larger middle circle? That’s what I wanted to draw– but I had to make all of those other circles and lines to get there! I did the Circle Pack 2 challenge in 8 moves, but apparently there’s a way to do it in only 5…

Truncated icosahedron pumpkinFinally, it’s pumpkin season again! Every year I scour the internet for new math-y ways to carve pumpkins. We’re all in luck this year– because I found great instructions for how to carve pumpkin polyhedra from Math Craft!  Check out this site to learn how to carve all the basics– tetrahedra, cubes, octahedra, dodecahedra, and (my favorite) icosahedra– and a bonus polyhedron, the truncated icosahedron (also know as the soccer ball).

Pumpkin polyhedra

Pumpkin Platonic polyhedra!


Don’t forget to make pi with the leftover pumpkin! Oh, and, bon appetit!



The Rhombic Dodec, Honeycombs, and Microtone

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch! Some cool pictures, videos, and a new game this week.

A couple of week’s ago, Anna wrote about the familiar hexagonal honeycomb that bees make, but that’s not the only sort of honeycomb. Mathematically, a honeycomb is the 3D version of a tessellation. Instead of covering the plane with some kind of polygon, a honeycomb fills space with some polyhedron. The cube works. Do you think tetrahedra would work? Can you think of other shapes that might work. Can you believe this works!?! (Look at the one at the bottom of that page.)

Inside the cubic honeycomb

Inside the cubic honeycomb

Truncated Octahedra

Truncated Octahedra



Rhombic Dodecahedral Honeycomb

Rhombic Dodecahedral Honeycomb

I want to introduce you to one of my new favorite “space-filling polyhedra.” Meet, the rhombic dodecahedron, which you can see packed nicely on the right or in crystal form below. (Click the crystal for a really great video by George Hart about crystals and polyhedra.)

Garnet Crystal

Garnet Crystal

I’ll let this video serve as an introduction to the rhombic dodecahedron and some of its features. Plus, it gives you something to make if you’d like. You’ll just need a deck of cards, and maybe a ruler and some tape.

Pretty wonderful, am I right? Here’s a link for a simple paper net you can fold up into a rhombic dodecahedron. For the really adventurous or dexterous, here’s a how-to video for a pretty tricky origami model. And here’s two more related videos showing how one can be built from two cubes.

Yoshimoto Stack

Stellated rhombic dodecahedral honeycomb

Here’s one final amazing fact about the rhombic dodecahedron. Its first stellation is the star form of the Yoshimoto Cube!!! (background info on stellation here) Perhaps more amazing is the fact that even this shape can stack to fill 3D space!



But now, as promised, I present a new game. Microtone is a mindbending pathwinding game played on, you guessed it, rhombic dodecahedra. (I know.) Click to move around the shape and land on all of the X’s. To rotate the dodecahedra, click and drag on the page.

Bon appetit!