Geometric puzzles attracted at SciFest


The Department of Mathematics organised a geometric puzzle activity during the Friday programme of the SciFest science festival on 22 September. More than 1200 school students visited the festival that day, many of whom came out to try to solve the puzzles. The festival took place at Fyrishov in Uppsala.

Two kids trying to solve geometric puzzles at the table on SciFest.
Photo: Stephan Wagner
Portrait photo of Stephan Wagner.
Stephan Wagner

Hello Stephan Wagner, Professor of Probability Theory and Combinatorics and initiator of the activity;

Have you been to SciFest before
– No, it was actually the first time for me (and our lecturers who were involved).

How was it? Did many people complete the puzzles?

– We had a lot of visitors and were basically busy all the time. I think almost everyone solved at least one of our puzzles. Some students were very ambitious and tried to solve them all - some actually succeeded.

Aren't you afraid that those who can't do the puzzles will take it as proof that they are not good at logical thinking?

– I hope that didn't happen - we helped with some hints so that it didn't become too frustrating. We also had puzzles of varying degrees of difficulty so there was something for beginners and experts alike. The aim was to give students the opportunity to experiment and play with geometric figures without it becoming a competition.

Can you be bad at geometric puzzles but good at other types of mathematical tasks?

– It is absolutely possible to be very talented in some mathematical subjects and less so in others. You also always have the opportunity to practise the aspects you find difficult. I would not use our puzzles as a measure of mathematical ability.

How can you train the ability to solve geometric puzzles? Is there a systematic method that wins?

– If you solve many similar puzzles, you observe certain patterns and you can improve your intuition. However, each puzzle often requires some unique "tricks" and I don't think there is a simple strategy that always works.

Read more about the SciFest science festival organised by Uppsala University and SLU.

Marie Chajara Svensson

News from the Department of Mathematics

Last modified: 2023-08-15