Math Toys

The Galton Board

Available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Galton Board 

The Galton Board: 3000 steel balls fall through 12 levels of branching paths and always end up matching a bell curve distribution. Each ball has a 50/50 chance of following each branch such that the balls are distributed at the bottom by the mathematical binomial distribution. One of my favorite finds of 2018! An elegantly designed modern version of the Galton Box invented by Sir Francis Galton(1894) to demonstrate the Central Limit Theorem - showing how random processes gather around the mean. In addition the number of balls in each bin can be predicted by Pascal's triangle (printed on the face over the pegs).

Skew Dice

Available here! 
From STEMcell Science: BUY NOW Skew Dice

Skew Dice: these unusually shaped dice are completely fair- roll them and the probability of outcomes are identical to a standard set of dice! The odd shapes are a special type of polyhedra called asymmetric trigonal trapezohedra which come in right and left handed versions- this set has one of each (mirror images of each other). What allows this shape to be fair like a cube has to do with the property of being isohedral, where each face of an object will map onto all other faces via a symmetry of the object. Manufactured by The Dice Lab. 

10 Hex Puzzle

This and other beautiful and well made puzzles are available on Etsy: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 10 Hex Puzzle 

Two great resources about these polyhexs: polyform puzzler page and puzzleworld page 

10 Hex Puzzle: this puzzle is comprised of pieces which are the set of all ways three and four hexagons can be joined with a common edge. There are 3 trihexs and 7 possible tetrahexs, and similar to pentominoes, these 10 polyhexs can assemble into a large hexagon. Amazingly there are exactly 12,290 solutions to this puzzle- but it’s still a challenge to find just one! 

Rhombic Blocks Mathematical Puzzle

This beautifully made puzzle available here:: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Rhombic Blocks 

Rhombic Blocks Mathematical Puzzle: There are 9 possible ways three rhombuses can be joined together along a common edge, and similar to pentominoes, these 9 tri-rhombs can tile a polyhedron, in this case a hexagon. There are 14 solutions to this puzzle, and one where no same-colored pieces touch. A beautiful math discovery by puzzle master Stuart Coffin.

Cone of Apollonius

Similar models available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Cone of Apollonius

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Cone of Apollonius

Cone of Apollonius: Slicing a cone with a plane will produce the famous curves known as the conic sections, as demonstrated with this beautiful vintage wood model by Nasco. Slicing at a right angle to the cone’s axis of symmetry produces a circle, and tilting the intersecting plane a bit produces an ellipse. When the plane is tilted parallel to the side of the cone the curve produced is a parabola, and tilting even further creates a hyperbola. The discovery of the mathematics demonstrated here are attributed to Apollonius of Perga from about 250 BC- thousands of years later Kepler, Newton, and others showed these conic sections to be intricately connected to many branches of physics such as planetary orbits and the optics of telescopes.

Uphill Roller

This set available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Uphill Roller Double Cone

Uphill Roller: a double cone (like two funnels connect by their tops) will roll up a set of inclined rails. Although the bi-cone rolls toward the higher end, its center of mass descends due to the geometry of the rails. This curious construction was first published in 1694 by the noted surveyor William Leybourn to promote “recreation of diverse kinds” towards the “sublime sciences”. Physics fun from three centuries ago!


Get this set here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW Hardwood Pentominoes 

Many versions available here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pentominoes 

The book by mathematician Solomon Golomb that started the polyonomo recreational math craze:
From Amazon: BUY NOW: Polyominoes 

Pentominoes: The 12 possible arrangements of five identical squares joined edge to edge. Since 5x12=60, the pentominoes can tile a 6 x 10 rectangle with no gaps (2339 ways to do this- yet even finding one solution is a challenge). I love this beautiful set from artist/woodworker Ron Moore where each pentomino is made from a different kind of hard wood. 

Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here: From eBay: BUY NOW
Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- just the right size to clear the curved openings.

Ambiguous Object 

Available here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW set of four ambiguous objects with booklet 
This offical kit/book from Prof. Sugihara contains four white plastic illusion objects (including the object in the video) and a booklet. 

Some 3D prints are available from many makers here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Ambiguous Objects 

These type of objects were invented by mathematician Kokichi Sugihara, and you can buy his other books here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Ambiguous Objects by Kokichi Sugihara 

Also available from Amazon (Japan): BUY NOW set of four ambiguous objects with booklet 

Another illusion design by Kokichi Sugihara of Meiji University in Japan, the inventor of this illusion and art form. A mathematically calculated combination of perspective and the physics of reflection produce this striking illusion that works in many configurations.

Pencil Hyperboloid

Choose your color and get one here: 
From Etsy: BUY NOW 
Hyperboloid Pencil Holder 

don't forget a set of pencils: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Colored Pencil Sets 

Better yet- get some thermochromic color changing pencils! 
From Educational Innovations: BUY NOW 
Heat-Sensitive Pencils 

Pencil Hyperboloid: a perfect gift for any math teacher- the precisely oriented holes in this base direct 16 pencils to reveal a hyperboloid, the 3D surface traced by revolving a diagonal(skew) line, the outline of which is the conic section of the hyperbola. A doubly ruled surface for any desktop!

Sphere and other Orbiforms

These volumes of constant width available for order now: choose from brass, copper, or stainless steel

From AltDynamic: BUY NOW: Sphere and Orbiforms

Sphere and other Orbiforms: pi day special post- volumes of constant width made from solid brass. These shapes have constant diameter no matter their orientation and will roll like spheres between two planes- note how the acrylic plate stays parallel to the table as the sphere and other orbiforms roll underneath. The first orbiform is based on the Reuleaux triangle and the second on a Reuleaux pentagon. Fun pi fact- the perimeter of any shape of constant width is alway equal to the diameter(width) multiplied by pi: P=πd.

Dandelin Spheres

I found this beautiful model on eBay and I'm not sure of its age or origin. 

Grant Sanderson describes the elegant geometry behind this curious arrangement. 
On YouTube: 3Blue1Brown descibes the Dandelin Spheres  

Wikipedia also has a good description: the Dandelin Spheres

See how sliced cones create conic sections with these colorful foam versions:

From Ammazon: BUY NOW: Conic Sections

Dandelin Spheres: Slicing a cone with a plane can produce an ellipse, and two spheres encapsulated by the same cone will always have the small sphere touching one focus and the large sphere contacting the plane at the other focus. This beautiful acrylic model shows this geometry for one choice of cone width and dissecting plane angle- but it always true. This geometric construction is named for its inventor, French mathematician Germinal Pierre Dandelin back in 1822, and with it he proved theorems concerning properties of ellipses and other conic sections- mathematical entities that play a roll in much physics- including the orbits of planets. Fun math that I wish someone would have showed me back in high school!

Polarized Light Cell Kaleidoscope

Click here for affordable, precision made scopes with angled mirrors: Kaleidoscope Symmetries Explored

See more kaleidoscopes in my collection: Kaleidoscopes

Polarized Light Cell Kaleidoscope: the amazing colors you see from the object cell of this 3 mirror kaleidoscope are generated by manipulating the polarization of light- the object in the clear wand is a strip of clear cellophane in oil which has the property of optical rotation. These property allows for an incredible range of color formation when placed between two linear polarization filters (swipe for demonstration). A creation of kaleidoscope artist Ron Kuhns.

Equilateral Triangular Kaleidoscope

This inexpansive kaleidoscope is available here:

From increadiblescience: BUY NOW: Moire Tube Kaleidoscope

Click here for affordable, precision made scopes with angled mirrors: Kaleidoscope Symmetries Explored

See more kaleidoscopes in my collection: Kaleidoscopes

Equilateral Triangular Kaleidoscope: three mirrors arranged in a 60-60-60 degree triangle creates the appearance of a plane filled with triangles (or equivalently a honeycomb lattice)- perhaps the most common mirror configuration design, this inexpensive kaleidoscope produces an excellent example of the reflection pattern. As a bonus the exterior tube on this scope incorporates a kinetic Moirè pattern. The kaleidoscope was invented by the famous Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), and has become an entire field of artistic endeavor.

Tapered Mirrors Kaleidoscope

This design by Koji Yamami available here: 
From BUY NOW Space Teleiedoscope 

Click on this link for details on the physics and symmetries of two mirror kaleidoscopes.

Tapered Mirrors Kaleidoscope: the unique design of this teleidoscope uses three mirrors to create an image of a geodesic sphere. As can be seen through the semi-transparent acrylic tube, the three mirrors are tapered, with their smaller ends near the ball shaped lens. Three mirrors in an equilateral triangle configuration will produce a plane of tiled triangles, but if they are tapered the repeated reflections curve to infinity creating the sphere. In this design by Koji Yamami there are small gaps between the mirrors which allows in colored light from the iridescent tube to produce the radiant streaks of light. Invented by the famous Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), the kaleidoscope is an ultimate physics toy and entire field of artistic endeavor.


Novascope Kaleidoscope

The Novascope can be ordered from the artist here: 
From Order here Novascope by David Sugich 

Novascopes can sometimes be found on eBay 
From eBay: Search NOW Novascope Kaleidoscopes 

Novascope: tapered mirror kaleidoscope by David Sugich uses three mirrors to create an image of geodesic spheres. Three mirrors in an equilateral triangle configuration will produce a plane of tiled triangles, but if they are tapered the repeated reflections curve to infinity creating the spherical geometry. In this design there are thin gaps etched into one mirror which allows in colored light from a flashlight (on the white side of the pyramid shaped scope) to produce the hexagon lattice. Shining a light through the view portal reveals where the colored lines come from as a flashlight moves from top to bottom and back. Invented by the famous Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), the kaleidoscope is an ultimate physics toy and entire field of artistic endeavor.

3D Pentominoes

The set I used for this video is called Pocket Katamino and is available here
From Amazon: BUY NOW Pentominoes 

3D Pentominoes: the 12 possible arrangements of five identical squares, joined edge to edge, form the set of all pentominoes. Since 12x5=60, the pentominoes can tile a 6 x 10 rectangle with no gaps (2339 ways to do this- yet even finding one solution is a challenge). This set of colorful pentominoes is made so that the height of each piece is the same as the width of the constituent squares, such that 3D constructions can be made. Since 3x4x5=60 one can build a box with these dimensions (amazingly, 3940 ways to do this- but again, finding one is still a fun challenge). 


This set of 3D printed scutoids available here:

From Etsy: BUY NOW: Scutoid container set

Scutoids: a recently recognized form of geometric solids discovered in 2018. Scutoids have a different polygon on each end, and when packed together maximize stability and minimize energy when forming a boundary layer- such as the membranes around organs in living tissue. These 5-6 scutoids have pentagons on one end and hexagons on the other. Discovered by a collaboration of biologists and mathematicians in 2018, this set is sold by Recep Mutlu of 3DPrintBase.