Math Unleashed

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Math Unleashed is comprised of three separate puzzles at three neighboring stations. For the first two puzzles, the docent or visitor sets up the leash, following the diagram on the sign board. The participant then tries to solve the puzzle, figuring out which post can be lifted up to set the dog free. (The dogs are stuffed animals, attached to actual leashes.) The docent can ask the participant, "Which post should I lift?", and once the participant chooses, the docent lifts the post while the participant tries to pull the dog free. If the visitor chooses the correct post to lift, the leash will untangle itself from the remaining post when the dog is pulled.

The third puzzle is much harder than the other two. Challenge the participant to design a way to wrap the leashes around both posts, so that lifting either one of the posts will allow the dog to be pulled free. The "Here's the Math" section of the sandwich board that accompanies this exhibit gives the solution, written in terms of group theory operations.

The docent will need to look at the participant's solution, and see if it works. If it is wrong, the docent should try to figure out which post doesn't free the dog, and demonstrate that to the participant. The key to a correct solution is that the leash must go around each post both clockwise and counterclockwise.

For curious visitors, you can mention that the study of knots is part of two different branches of mathematics, group theory and topology.

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Math Unleashed
Math Unleashed