Mindbender: Can You Move 5 Matchsticks to Balance the Scale

June 13, 2019 Updated: June 13, 2019

We know that you’ve been working hard, toiling away day after day. Now, you need a break! It’s good to have a little diversion every now and then. But why not have some fun and sharpen your wits at the same time?

Well, that’s where we come in. Before they came up with smartphones (and Facebook), people had a lot more time on their hands, and they found ways to amuse themselves; imagination led people to use their minds, and they came up with all sorts of simple but charming diversions: cards, marbles, and matchstick puzzles—puzzles that push the limits of your logical skills.

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The genius behind these puzzles (like logic itself) is that they’re timeless. People came up with all sorts of variations that pushed the boundaries of logical thinking. Back then, people used their brains, while today we (who have become too dependent on gadgets) are stumped by them, unable to think outside the box. How much logic do you have?

Shall we play a game and find out?

Let’s break out the matchsticks and begin!

Puzzle 1 (Warmup)

We’ll start off with something easy to get your brain warmed up. You can set up your matchsticks as per the illustration below, or you can work it out in your head if you like. Below is an arrangement of matchsticks in the shape of a cross (equal in length and height).

Can you move 3 of the matchsticks—you can move them anywhere you like—and position them to create 3 squares of equal size? Take a moment to figure it out before scrolling down to see the solution.

When you think you have the right answer, or if you’re completely stumped and would like to see the solution, scroll down below to check the answer.

Presto!

That wasn’t so hard, was it? It’s all about surveying the possibilities and allocating resources. All you have to do is be creative with your mind. As we progress to the next puzzle, we’re going to think further and further outside the box. Are you ready for the next one?

Puzzle 2

Try this large triangle on for size. This time, you’ll have to move 3 matchsticks in order to create 3 equilateral triangles (triangles whose sides are the same length) of the same size. You can move the matchsticks anywhere you like in order to achieve the goal, but you can only move 3. Take a moment to figure it out before you scroll down.

If you have found the answer, or if you’re confounded and confused, then scroll down to see the solution below:

Voila!

How did you fare this time? Now are you ready for the big finale? See down below for the third and most difficult puzzle of the three.

Puzzle 3

And now for a real doozy. The answer, as you can see, is worth its weight in gold! You can just use spare change of any denomination if you don’t have a gold coin (or just pretend). The goal of this puzzle is to balance the scales by moving any 5 matchsticks. You can move them anywhere, but you must end up with a scale that appears to be balanced on both sides (not tilted).

It’s trickier than it looks! Give it your best shot. When you have found the answer or if you’re completely done-in by this balancing act, then scroll down below to see the solution.

Just like magic!

The scales have mysteriously untipped themselves thanks to your logical skills. Congratulations! Or if you weren’t able to solve it, don’t worry; this was a toughy. Better luck next time.

Whether you solved it or not, we hope you enjoyed these matchstick puzzles. As you can see, they’re filled with endless amusement possibilities. Please stay tuned for more puzzles soon to come!

What? You’re in the mood for an encore? Well, try this one on for size then:

Can You Make a Square by Moving ONLY 1 Matchstick?

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.

Psych!

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 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!

Photo Credit: Illustration – The Epoch Times

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