Outsmarting Math Like a Boss

Pentominoes. That’s a really big word. Am I even saying it right? [Pen-tom-in-oes] Yup, got it down. Now, what the heck is this big word? Is it a writing instrument? Is it some kind of domino? In the simplest terms, pentominoes is a mathematical puzzle. You’ve probably played Tetris in the past. It’s pretty much that, but instead of the shapes falling continuously. You have to make them all fit in a box.

Let me break it down for you, this is not an easy puzzle. It may look simple, like a five year old can do it, but it’s actually a good mind challenge. A few weeks ago, we opened a hands-on exhibit exclusively about mathematics and its everyday relationship with our world. We call it Think Math!  In this exhibit, we help you discover your inner math powers. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true.  This is where pentominoes come in. Placed in the center of Think Math, we’ve laid out four squares so everyone can take their turn trying to solve these puzzles. We’ve had math teachers sit down with the pentominoes and take hours trying to put it together. Some succeed, some don’t. (We did mention these were pretty tricky, didn’t we?)  A lot of visitors walk away after 15 minutes, other don’t event attempt.


One rainy summer’s day, Heather Homewood and Sarah Carr (both in high school) visited the museum for the first time with Sara’s mom. They saw the pentominoes and decided to join forces and give it a shot. One of our facilitators noticed them trying to put the thing together, but didn’t think anything of it. 45 minutes later, the same facilitator returned and noticed Sara and Heather still working on the mathematical puzzle. He inquired if he could assist in any way and discovered they had solved the puzzle! Both girls had huge smiles on their faces and our staff couldn’t have been more proud.


We decided to take a photo and dedicate this blog to these girls and their amazing achievement. Not that many people can solve pentominoes and the fact that these two girls came together to solve such a difficult puzzle is inspiring to us. Leonardo da Vinci would be proud.

To try pentominoes, visit our museum Saturday-Thursday 10am-5pm or Friday 10am-10pm. Maybe we’ll even write a blog about you or post your picture on social media.

Girls—stay curious!