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Geometry 2014

Instructor: Jonathan Choate, Groton School, Groton, MA

Reflective Summary by Diana Tunnell

Day 4 Platonic Solids including a SketchUp of the Tetrahedron, Vertex Packing Problem, & Archimedean Solids
SketchUp for a Tetrahedron

Vertex Packing Problem
To begin, we reviewed that the sum of all the exterior angles for any polygon is 360 degrees and that the sum of
the interior angles for a regular polygon is 180(n-2) where n is the number of sides. The Vertex Packing Problem
relates closely to tiling (tesselations) where polygons are able to fit together to cover a 2-D or flat space so that
there are no gaps or overlapping areas. For this to occur, the sum of the interior angles must equal 360 degrees
at any vertex. At this point Mr. Choate dumped the tub of Jovos and we started packing! The method of try,
notice patterns, then reflect on the mathematical reasoning is a highly useful and student friendly manner to
present these types of problems. Notice in Figure 1 that I have created two regular packings at the top and right
(where all of the polygons are the same) and one semi-regular packing on the left in which I used two squares, a
triangle and a hexagon.

To determine what arrangements can pack (interior angles must sum to 360) we made a table of interior angles
for regular polygons. Table 1 Interior Angles
Polygon Number
of sides
Measure of each
interior angle
[(n-2)*180] / n
triangle 3 60
square 4 90
pentagon 5 108
hexagon 6 120
heptagon 7 128.6
octagon 8 135
nonagon 9 140
decagon 10 144
11-gon 11 147.3
dodecagon 12 150

1 Vertex Packing Example

Using Schafli notation we made groupings where the interior angles add to 360 as seen below.
Polygons in packing Sum of interior angles Schafli notation
Groups of 3
3 triangles 60 + 60 + 60 {3,3,3}
2 octagons, 1 square 135 + 135 + 90 {8,8,4}
square, hexagon, dodecagon 90 + 120 + 150 {4,6,12}
Groups of 4
4 squares 90+90+90+90 {4,4,4,4}
2 squares, triangle, hexagon 90 + 90 + 60 + 120 {4,4,3, 6}
2 triangles, 2 hexagons 60 +60+120 + 120 {3,3,6,6}
2 triangles, square, dodecagon 60 + 60+ 90 + 150 {3,3,4,12}
Groups of 5
hexagon, 4 triangles 120 + 60 + 60 + 60+ 60 {6,3,3,3,3}
3 triangles, 2 squares 60 + 60+60+ 90 + 90 {3,4,3,4,3}
Groups of 6
6 triangles 60+60 +60+60+60+60 {3,3,3,3,3,3}

Review of Platonic Solids
The regular polyhedra are solids in which all faces are the same regular polygon. There are five possible regular
polyhedron together called the Platonic solids. They are listed in the table below and can be seen in figure
Name of Platonic Solid Polygonal Face # of Faces # Vertices # Edges
tetrahedron Regular triangle (equilateral) 4 4 6
octahedron Regular triangle (equilateral) 8 6 12
Icosahedron Regular triangle (equilateral) 20 12 30
cube (hexahedron) Regular quadrilateral (square) 6 8 12
dodecahedron Regular pentagon 12 20 30

2 from Platonic Solids Wikipedia
A concept that we talked about that was new to me was that of identifying duals. Duals are reciprocal
constructions found by interchanging the vertices and faces. Looking at the table above we can identify three
sets of duals: tetrahedron duals with a tetrahedron, the icosahedron duals with a dodecahedron and the
octahedron and cube are duals. The vertices of one solid will touch the midpoint of the face of its dual. The
image below shows the cube/octahedron duals (middle and left) and the tetrahedron dual on the right.

So why are there only five Platonic Solids and none with a hexagonal face or any of the larger polygonal faces?
This is a good question to pose to students to contemplate for a short while. Provide them manipulatives to try
to build a hexagonal solid and then follow up by questioning why it doesnt work. Consider that to create a solid
3-D figure there must be a minimum of three faces at every vertex. At each vertex we need to have the sum of
the interior angles LESS THAN 360 degrees. If it equaled 360 then the vertex would flatten and not create the
3D form. Looking at the combinations of interior angles from Table 1 in which the sum of at least three polygons
is less than 360 degrees we find those combinations are:
Face Combination Sum of interior angles Platonic Solid
3 triangles 60 + 60 + 60 tetrahedron
4 triangles 60 +60+60+60 octahedron
5 triangles (6 would be too many) 60 + 60+ 60+ 60 +60 icosahedron
3 squares (4 would be too many) 90 +90 + 90 hexahedron (cube)
3 pentagons (4 would be too many) 108 + 108 + 108 dodecahedron
3 hexagons is too many as would be
any polygon with more than 6 sides

3) This image shows the 5 Platonic Solids I made with Jovos
Archimedean Solids
Archimedean solids are made up of a mix of different faces and are considered semi-regular. Similar to
the Platonic solids, the same combinations of polygons will be found at each vertex. There are 13
Archimedean solids which can be found in the handout for Day 4.

To explore properties of the Archimedean solids we used a free tool called Kaleidotile which can be
downloaded at It allows the user to transition between
the Platonic duals to create the Archimedean solids.
This image shows the small rhombicuboctahedron made with Kaleidotile. It is
formed from the cube-octahedron dual group.

SketchUp of Tetrahedron

In Geometry class today, we used some advanced features of SketchUp to try the 3-D capabilities of the program
to construct the tetrahedron. The capabilities of this free tool are quite amazing. However, I found the program
to be very sensitive in that it didnt respond as easily as I would have liked. What appears to be a simple process
below took a quite some time and persistence to complete. It will take me more time using this program to be
comfortable and efficient with it.
The two images below demonstrate how I was able to rotate and move the four equilateral triangles I created to
create one larger triange. The two images also show a comparison between the view options (top and

Below one can see (from two views) how I was able to select one corner of the triangle and to bend at a specific
angle to fold it.

After folding the sides, I have a completed tetrahedron.