An a-maz-ing Math problem


Ever built a maze? I mean a real-life-size maze? One you can actually get lost in?

I have. And it’s fun!

Okay, here it is.

This is what I was given:

  • 1 gym (56 feet by 75 feet)
  • 21 panels 12 feet long by 6 feet tall
  • 28 panels 8 feet long by 6 feet tall

Problem—create the best maze possible (most loops, dead ends, etc.) while maximizing the stability of the maze panels (i.e. no long runs of thin panels).

Oh, and you only have a day to do it! (Nothing like a deadline!)

Well, I thought about it and decided to actually model this one. I took some graph paper and sketched out the perimeter of the gym to scale and cut 28 little paper sticks equivalent to the 8 foot panels and 21 sticks for the 12 footers to fit my picture. With these, I could just move things around on the paper until I found a pattern that I liked and would satisfy the conditions above.

I tried to make as many T and U shaped pieces as I could since they hold each other up well. In short, I had what looked like a bunch of H shapes mixed in with some U shapes. And I used every panel available.

That was on paper. Here’s one picture of my work in progress:

When I went to work on the thing, the gym was not actually the size I had written down. It was larger by several feet in all directions. And the panels were different too! There were no 12 footers at all. All I had to work with were 8 and 6 foot lengths. And they were so mixed-up, I had no clue as the total number actually available to me. (Aaaahhhh!)

So, a little quick thinking came into play here. I substituted three 8 footers in for 2 of my 12 footers and built the core of the maze that way. A bit of “creative engineering” was needed to get the rest of the sides and back put together.

All in all, it came out alright. The theme of the maze was Dr. Seuss, so having a few panels not quite perfect was more than okay for the kids.

The short of the story here: math problems come in all shapes and sizes and can really be puzzles—in the literal sense! So don’t fret over things that seem like puzzles now, because they’ll just end up being a bunch of panels you stacked up anyway.

(Oh, the end result looked okay too and was fun to go through, as the picture below kind of shows.)


“Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum.”

–          Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr




Logan Schoolcraft is a private math tutor specializing in distance math tutoring. You can find out more about him and his services at


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