Hex Board!

April 1, 2011

If you read about the amazing gift of the (now consumed) Sierpinskitaschen last week, you would rightly assume that our present karma had about played itself out. Not so! On Tuesday I had two students–third graders at an after school math circle I lead–present me with one of the all time awesome-est gifts I have ever received.

I am, you see, a hex fan. Hex is a board game, the creation of which is often attributed to John Nash, who apparently dreamed it up while looking at his bathroom tiles. It’s played on a rhombus board made of hexagons. The rules are simple: you can color in a hex on your turn. First to build a connection between their two sides wins.

I’ve decimated who knows how many forests playing this game with students. The strategy is so beautiful, and the mathematical connections so profound that I’ve always felt it was worth it to hand out copy after copy, as my students colored in one game after another. Now, finally, I can play the game in true and eco-friendly style. My two students, Jack and Ben, looked at their parents bathroom renovation project and noted that there were going to be some hexagonal tiles left over. They thought of my love for the game, and decided to build me my very own hex board.

These were the same kids who asked me what the atomic weight of nerf is.

I also played a game with Jack, who almost beat me (I haven’t lost to a student without a handicap in many years, though a girl in the same class beat me two weeks ago with a three stone headstart.) There’s a way in which the next generation always seems smarter than the last.

If you were able to follow the rules, see if you can solve this hex puzzle below. How can black play and win?

Thanks, Ben and Jack! This is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

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