Let’s Build a Newspaper Fort using Math!

There is no better way to spend a rainy afternoon than in constructing a fort!

Usually, I just drape a blanket over two chairs but we decided to go bigger this time and make a fort out of newspaper, using the POWER OF MATH!

Basically, I have been observing that the most stable and economical shape used in general construction is a triangle, and a triangulated structure (like the famous Mathematical Bridge in Cambridge) is able to withstand both compressive and stretching forces to maintain its shape.

This concept is quite a simple one to demonstrate in the playground, where many standing structures like swings, slides and climbing frames will consist of beams, ropes or cables fixed together in triangular patterns. Hence, I decided that the best way to demonstrate this principle of geometry and mechanics would be to build an fort using a space frame truss – that is, using triangular units to build a 3-D frame.

What you’ll need:

  1. Newspaper
  2. Tape (I used masking tape)
  3. Stapler

Step One: Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

We started out by rolling up newspapers and stapling them together into triangles. (This is a great way to put idle little hands to good use.) Fold each newspaper sheet into half and roll it up into a stick starting from one corner, so that you only need a tiny piece of masking tape to hold the whole stick together.

To start out with, we made five triangles and taped them together like this:

Step 2: Make a roof

Step 2: Make a roof

If your kids are pretty small, you can stop there, but we wanted to go BIGGER and BOLDER! 

A full igloo!

So we made another 10 triangles and joined them together like this:


Step 3: Complete base of fort

The whole structure turned out to be pretty stable! I covered the whole fort with a flat sheet to give the kids some privacy and they played together quietly in their little igloo for the rest of the afternoon…giving me some time to lie down and have a well-deserved nap on the couch.




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