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What are flexagons?

Learn about the history of flexagons, the most important skill to enjoy flexagons, and how they have developed over time.

A brief introduction to flexagons

What are flexagons? That’s quite a difficult question to answer as there are so many different kinds.

I suppose the best way to describe it is by its construction. A flat, paper template is folded into a model that supports more than two distinguishable faces. Even the Wikipedia description does not take into account many of the flexagons that have been discovered in the past years.

Skills you need to have to enjoy flexagons

The most important skill you have to learn in order to enjoy flexagons is how to flex the flexagon once it has been constructed. Flexing means exposing the different faces of the flexagon by some manual manipulation of the paper.

There can be many different flexes on a flexagon, each exposing new faces, patterns or structures.

The first flexagon discovery

The video above presents the first flexagon discovery. Watch the video to see how they were invented by the British mathematician Arthur Stone, while he was still a graduate student in math, and then studied by a group of students who all became notable mathematicians and physicists: John Tukey, Bryant Tuckerman and Richard Feynman.

Flexagons over time

Flexagons have come a long way since their invention and we are now in the position to look at them with perspective. When we do this, we can come to the conclusion that learning about flexagons from a historical perspective can be misleading, and can make it more difficult to understand some of the properties of new flexagons that are being studied today.

If you’d like to learn more about flexagons, check out the full online course, from the Davidson Institute of Science Education, below.

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Flexagons Galore: Advanced Flexagon Fun

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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