Author: Martin Gardner

Martin Gardner (1914 – 2010) was an American popular mathematics and popular science writer, with interests also encompassing scientific skepticism, micromagic, philosophy, religion, and literature—especially the writings of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and G. K. Chesterton.

With 12 matches you can easily create a shape with area 9 and a shape with area 5, as shown on the picture below. Can you rearrange the 12 matchsticks, so that they encompass an area of 4?

Remark: You should have only one resulting shape and no matches should be unused.

First, create a Pythagorean triangle with sides 3, 4, 5, and area 6. Then simply flip its right angle inwards, so that the area decreases by 2.