Mindbender: Can You Make a Square by Moving ONLY 1 Matchstick?

August 18, 2019 Updated: August 19, 2019

Puzzles of logic are designed to test and  sharpen your powers of reasoning. Reason is as old as the hills, but perhaps that’s why these puzzles never get old. They are timeless! When you solve a problem, you always feel like you’ve learned something new even if you were unable to find the solution.

Matchstick puzzles in particular look simple enough, but looks can be deceiving. Although some may seem easy, there are often hidden difficulties that force you to look high and low for an answer. So, try this one on for size—it seems simple enough.

Below is an illustration of 4 matchsticks arranged in the shape of a cross:

Your task is to move 1 matchstick, and not more than 1, in order to create a square shape. You may move it anywhere you like. The simplest problems are sometimes the hardest. This problem may seem impossible, but in fact, it is not.

Do not scroll down right away. Take a few moments to think it over. When you think you have the right answer (or if you’re completely stumped) scroll down below to see the solution.


You have to think small and think outside the box in order to solve this one. Shift the upper matchstick upward the same distance as the width of 1 matchstick and you will have created a square shape in the center of the cross, formed by the bottom widths of each matchstick.

Was This Question Unfair?

Traditionally, matchstick puzzles treat the stick as a one-dimensional object representing a vertical line as a fixed length; based on that you are tasked with solving larger-shape puzzles involving shapes like rectangles, triangles, and squares, which are constructed from 1 or more matchsticks (and they don’t even have to touch each other). Within that framework of rules, there is still plenty of room for tricks and troubles!

In this case, we used all that as a distraction. Perhaps you assumed there must be something hidden in that framework of rules and were busy trying to find an answer.

Yet, its simplicity is also conspicuous.

That might have hinted to you that you should think outside of the box. In this case, we changed the rules and looked at each matchstick as a two-dimensional object (instead of a one-dimensional one). That creates the width aspect for each matchstick. And, assuming that each matchstick is partially rectangular at the bottom, where they converge would create a perfect square. Yet, you’d be totally justified in pointing out how that’s problematic, as that’s assuming a lot!

Fair or unfair, the authors write the rules … but we hope you enjoyed playing anyway!

Can You Remove 5 Sticks to Get 2 Squares?–Not Everyone Can Do It In 10 Seconds, Can You?

Before the advent of smartphones and videogames, way back in the day, kids would play simple puzzles using matchsticks. As old school as it may be, these tricky brainteasers hold their appeal—even on social media, ironically. The reason? Because everyone loves a challenge.

The solution is right in front of you; all you have to do is use your noggin and point it out. It sounds so simple that it’s practically irresistible, but it’s usually harder than it looks! Which is why when you’re the only one of your friends who gets it, it’s so satisfying!

So, try this matchstick puzzle on for size.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Golden House Studio


Here are 14 matchsticks arranged into several squares grouped together. We’re going to ask you to remove a number of matchsticks so that a certain number of squares remain.

Using the arrangement of matchsticks below, try to solve the following 6 problems:

1) Remove 3 sticks so that 3 squares remain.

2) Remove 5 sticks so that 2 squares remain

3) Remove 3 sticks so that 5 squares remain

Take a few seconds to work out the above puzzle—grab a piece of paper and a pen if you want to. And once you think you have all three solutions, scroll down below to check the answers. And if you find any additional solutions besides these, be sure to snap a picture and share them in the comments.

One thing you can always count on when it comes to brainteasers like these is that they always like to throw in something that you don’t expect, and force you to think outside the box—almost literally in this case! With that said, we’ve thrown in an easy one to get you started and picked two more that are slightly more challenging.

Solution 1:

Remove 3 sticks so that 3 squares remain.

Simple right? Three separate and completely distinct squares, all the same size. Now here are the two remaining solutions.

Solution 2:

Remove 5 sticks so that 2 squares remain

Slightly more challenging, as there are now 2 different-sized squares, which use some of the same matchsticks as sides, “bending the rules” of your brain ever so slightly. Now, the final solution.

Solution 3:

Remove 3 sticks so that 5 squares remain

Again, there are 2 different-sized squares, 4 smaller ones and 1 bigger one; the only difference is that the big square is entirely made up of matchsticks from the other squares, “hiding” it in a sense, and further bending the way you think.

If you got all three answers, it means you were able to traverse these mental maneuvers. The sense of reward you get makes it all worth it, right?

Photo Credit: Illustration – The Epoch Times