Most people have taken a geometry class in their life, but how many people can say that they enjoyed it? It’s a tragedy that so many of the hidden wonders of shapes and patterns go undiscovered. Chances are, people get distracted or disheartened by the mental burden of proofs and formulas, left without real world applications that they can firmly grab hold of – literally! Geometry is much more than memorizing lists and rules; it can be a playground of ideas for students and thinkers of all ages. Building, reasoning, and constructing shapes in three dimensions presents opportunities for exploration, wonder, and delight in everyday life. Imagine the great creative geniuses from history that have created the man-made wonders we know and love. They all utilized geometry to construct and make their creative thinking come to life. Without geometry, ideas and dreams could stay locked inside the brain – and that’s not helping anyone! The same applies to architects that design buildings with appealing shapes and sizes. Everybody has to start somewhere, and some people start with – you guessed it - mechanical puzzles. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight two incredibly popular, classic geometric puzzles that have been inspiring creative minds of all kinds for centuries. Take a look!
Tangrams, and the idea of dissecting images into smaller shapes, is such a universal idea that nobody is really quite sure where tangrams originated. There are myths and legends that have traveled through pop culture, but most are just fictional fun. Regardless of the mysterious origins, tangrams have had waves of popularity in different countries over the years, and for good reason!
The object of the Tangram Puzzle is to form different shapes using all 7 pieces that are provided. The set from Kubiya comes with 65 challenge cards and two sets of tangram pieces so you can play by yourself or with a friend. The goal is to recreate the shape on the card using all 7 pieces in the set. If you decide to challenge a friend, both players can compete to solve the same challenge – racing against the clock, or maybe collaborating in peaceful harmony. Worried about getting stuck? Solutions are printed on the back of the card.
Why do we love tangrams? The marvelous thing about these puzzles is that not all children will make (for example), a dog, in the same way - and that’s fine! It’s ideal, actually. Nothing in the world of geometric puzzles has to be "set in stone." This not only helps to promote divergent thinking, but it encourages children to take risks because they know that there isn't just one correct way of doing it. Risky thinkers are the ones who will grow up to change the world – and all great things must start from humble beginnings.
The Soma Cube is a solid dissection mechanical puzzle invented by a Danish man, Piet Hien, in 1933 during a lecture on quantum mechanics conducted by Werner Heisenberg. The name is alleged to be obtained from the fictitious drug soma, consumed as a pastime by the established society in Aldous Huxley’s dystopic novel Brave New World. At first this seems like a strange connection, but the addictive nature of both the drug and the puzzle seems to be the common link. Soma the drug is a perfect example of escapism, and because of the multiple ways the soma cube can be solved, the very nature of the puzzle lends itself to continual use. If only the characters in Brave New World had chosen mechanical puzzles over their drugs, that sounds more like a utopia than a dystopia (though I may be biased).
So, how do you play? The object of the Soma Cube is to form different 3D shapes using 7 dissected pieces from a hand-crafted wooden cube. This Soma Cube set comes with 50 challenge cards and two cubes so you can play by yourself or with another person! Just choose a challenge card from the deck and try to recreate the shape on the card using all 7 pieces of your cube - simple, fun, and challenging! If you get stuck, of course, the solution is on the back of the card. We recommend that you don’t peek, though, because sometimes the best way to learn is to get stuck and come back to it later. If you find yourself stuck on a difficult card (the Kubiya set comes with easy, medium, and hard levels), just pick an easier card to take your mind off of the problem at hand! Many famous thinkers, mathematicians, and scientists will engage in easier, mindless activities while they work towards solutions to problems that are plaguing their minds. The beauty of the soma cube having different levels of difficulty is that you can choose for yourself, and there are no wrong choices.
Why do we love the soma cube? Unlike some other puzzles, which have only one right answer, there are up to 240 ways to build the 3x3x3 cube! Just more proof in the world that there is hardly ever one correct solution to any given problem. With enough hard work, and a splash of creativity, the possibilities are endless. Don’t be a square, be a Soma Cube!
The reality is, mechanical and geometric puzzles have endured for centuries, and they will always be reliable fun! That’s a guarantee. Reasoning geometrically, being able to feel and construct shapes with your bare hands has always come easier to most people, rather than reasoning algebraically. Does this make sense? We certainly think so; numerical thinking is younger, evolutionary speaking, while geometric thinking is ancient and sacred. Humans have had to think geometrically in order to get from one place to another, and in order to build their homes and tools, long before anybody was doing Calculus or solving equations. After all, the pyramids still stand today, a grand symbol of geometry’s mark on society.
Cheers, as always, and happy puzzling!