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K12 Math Puzzles


Toothpick Puzzle

   Suggested Materials:

toothpicks, pencils, or any other sticks of equal size


Starting with the configuration shown below, can you move exactly two toothpicks to form four 1x1 squares? You must use all the toothpicks, without any overlap. The final product will consist of exactly four squares, all the same size as the five in the original configuration.

   Questions to ask yourself as you work:

  1. Can you imagine how the final configuration will look?

  2. Can you draw a picture of a possible solution? How about more than one?

    Look at some pictures
  3. Do any of these seem reachable in only 2 moves?

  4. Now that you've read the hint, try asking questions 1 and 2 again.

Need a hint?


(Don't look 'til you're ready to give up!)

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Eric Sasson
4 November 1996

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