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Space-Filling Blocks

Does geometry bring back stressful high school math memories? Geometry Playground, a new display opening Friday at San Francisco's Exploratorium, could help you rethink your associations with polygons and acute angles by moving geometry from the realm of proofs to a series of experiential exhibits that teach geometry through action.

Pictured is "Space-Filling Blocks," which requires visitors to rely on spatial reasoning, or "mental geometry," to stack a series of red blocks so there's no wasted space.

"Think of the tiles in your bathroom," the description reads. "Filling up space completely with almost no gaps in between is called tessellation. Experiment with what shapes do and don't tessellate and the orientation of the stacking required."

Geometry Playground includes more than 20 exhibits and specially commissioned artworks.

Caption:Photo:Amy Snyder/Exploratorium
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Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedrons

Kids play with "Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedrons," which are 12-sided, 3D shapes. Each of the 12 sides is a rhombus, or a diamond, which has been pulled, or stellated, into a point. Geometry Playground requires visitors to use their hands, and sometimes their entire bodies, to explore geometric concepts.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Amy Snyder/Exploratorium
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Climb a Stack of Stars

The blocks in "Climb a Stack of Stars" are also Stellated Rhombic Dodecahedrons, but scaled to a much larger size to allow for climbing and full-body exploration in a giant 3D space.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Amy Snyder/Exploratorium
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Shape Cube

Taking geometry off the page of textbooks, the Shape Tube involves crawling through twisting tubes made by rotating a single shape in different ways.

Running in conjunction with Geometry Playground will be Geometry in Motion, an eight-part film series that includes "Between the Folds," a documentary chronicling 10 artists and scientists who devote their time to modern origami. Geometric Threads, a workshop series, will also run in conjunction with the Geometry Playground.

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Created by Exploratorium artist-in-residence Stacy Speyer Large, these colorful shapes are constructed of metal and suspended within reach. The objects are meant to be handled and contemplated.

Geometry Playground stays in San Francisco through September and then travels to San Diego; St. Paul, Minn.; and other cities.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Amy Snyder/Exploratorium
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The Geometron

John Edmark's Geometron lets you make glowing symmetrical patterns in a video kaleidoscope.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Amy Snyder/Exploratorium
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