Makes Me Happy

Martin Gardner and Hexaflexagons

This is a personal blog, something I am always telling the marketing people who email me every day asking to “partner up with my website.” I don’t do ads, I just write about personal things and sometimes nice people commiserate with me below the post and then I feel less alone. Or they share resources which make me feel less overwhelmed. Or they cheer me on which makes me feel less hopeless.

BUT TODAY! TODAY I AM WRITING THE LEAST PERSONAL THING EVER! Today we’re talking about Martin Gardner and Hexaflexagons!

Gardner, who died in 2010, was what some call the Father of Recreational Mathematics. Although he had little-to-no mathematical training, he had a column in Scientific American called “Mathematical Games” for 25 years that tricked people into being interested in math by writing about things like Hexaflexagons!

(Don’t worry, we’ll get there.)

Shortly after Gardner’s death, Douglas Hofstadter, author of the popular math book Gödel, Escher, Bach, said “Scientific American was just the wrapping for Martin Gardner’s column.” My Dad read that magazine and I really wish I had discovered Gardner before he died so I could have asked him what he thought about the column. It could have gone either way, he could have loved it because it showed the fun side of math or he cold have hated it because…it showed the fun side of math.

We’ll never know!

Alas…I discovered Gardner through the legendary Vi Hart. She says Gardner inspired her Dad’s love of math which in turn inspired her love of math which is why a few years ago she was mentioned in a Scientific American article “Flexagon but Not Forgotten: Celebrating Martin Gardner’s Birthday.” Vi Hart did a lot of great math videos, but introducing the world to Hexaflexagons may have been one of her best.

If you watch that video and think, “I want to celebrate Martin Gardner’s Birthday by making my own Hexaflexagon!” May I recommend this page. Definitely start with the 3-sided one, I wouldn’t attempt the 6-sided until you understand a bit about how the folding/flexing works. That Aunt Aunnie page has the best diagrams explaining how to fold your flexagon AND it gives a bunch of templates you can use to make one. And then…when you’re read? She has a 6-sided page too.

We are going to do a STEAM class with our kids at the library next week so I’ve been practicing. Here are mine.

I love this kind of stuff so much and I wanted to share it with you guys.

Happy Hexaflexagon day!

1 thought on “Martin Gardner and Hexaflexagons”

  1. This was delightful, thank you! I learned about hexaflexagons in HS geometry, and had totally forgotten about them.

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