The word "flexagon" was coined by one of four people, all of whom were graduate students in physics or mathematics at Princeton in 1939. They were Arthur Stone, who apparently discovered the hexagonal format you're going to see in this demo; Bryant Tuckerman, Richard Feynman, and John Tukey. All four of them achieved some fame in their respective fields and one of them achieved a fair amount of fame, period. These four did all the initial "research" into the flexagon (read: they farted around with them a lot when they should have been studying.) You can find the whole story, and a lot more detail than this demo goes into, in Martin Gardner's The Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions (Simon and Schuster, 1959) - if you can manage to find a copy.
We're going to make two hexaflexagons (the hexa- just refers to the shape of the finished object; there are other kinds). We'll start with the simpler three-sided "trihexaflexagon," because it is easy and shows the basic principles; then we'll try for the six-sided "hexahexaflexagon."
You will need:
- a roll of adding machine paper (not thermal paper)
- a means of measuring a sixty-degree angle
- something to cut the paper with
- something to glue two surfaces of paper together with that will only glue those surfaces (e.g. won't seep through and glue anything else in a stack of layers); I used double-sided tape because 1) I had some and 2) you don't have to wait for that to dry.
Begin by cutting off the end of the tape at a sixty-degree angle. Discard the scrap end or use it as a bookmark.