Tangled Hearts

This week’s activity is a disentanglement puzzle. These puzzles range from simple to difficult and most appear, at first glance, to be impossible. Once they are carefully studied, however, solutions usually present themselves.

Since this puzzle is easily made from inexpensive materials, each student should have one. Make a sample copy of the puzzle beforehand to familiarize yourself with the construction process. This not only enables you to give students guidance as they make the puzzle, but it also provides you with an opportunity to try the puzzle yourself!

The hearts below will make two puzzles. Copy the page on lightweight cardstock or oak tag. Each puzzle requires an 80 centimeter length of string, some tape, and two pennies (or other similar-sized objects). Follow the directions below to construct the puzzle.

Large HeartSmall Heart

 

Each puzzle needs a large heart and a small heart.

(For a sturdier puzzle, we recommend that the puzzle be made out of cardstock or oak tag.)

 

1. Cut out the two hearts from above and punch out the holes.

2. Cut an 80 cm length of string and lay it across the large heart as shown.

Step1

3. Thread the two ends of the string through the bottom hole in the large heart from underneath.

Step2

4. Thread both ends through the hole in the small heart. Thread one end of the string through the right hole in the large heart and the other end through the left hole.

Step3

5. Finish you heart by taping a penny, or other similar-sized object, to each of the two loose ends of the string.

Step4

Once the puzzle is assembled, the challenge is to remove the smaller heart without cutting the string or untaping the ends.

If you are successful, the next challenge is to join the two hearts once more without cutting the string or retaping the ends.

Note: If your string becomes too tangled, it’s okay to untape the ends and reconstruct the puzzle according to the directions. 

Solutions

Click the arrow below to view the solutions.

TangledHeartsSolutions

Dave Youngs

Dave Youngs is director of the Graduate Math/Science Education program at Fresno Pacific University. In this position he works with both pre- and in-service teachers in the areas of math and science education. He is most interested in the elementary and middle school levels.

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