You will need
- Overhead projector sheet or tracing paper
- Permanent marker
- Pens or textas
- A copy of the arrow maze [pdf, 7kB]
Solving an arrow maze
Although it might not look like it, this puzzle is a type of maze. The rules are quite simple:
- Start at the box labelled ‘In’.
- There are arrows in the box. Follow one of them to the next box.
- This box also has arrows. Pick one and follow it. Keep following arrows until you get to the box labelled ‘Out’.
- This maze has a loop from which you cannot escape – if you end up in the loop, you’ll have to start again!
Making an arrow maze
- On a sheet of paper, draw a 5 x 5 grid of boxes. (Or you can make it even bigger!) Label one box ‘In’ and one box ‘Out’.
- Draw a path travelling from box to box, starting at ‘In’ and ending at ‘Out’. Don’t go to all the boxes and never visit the same box more than once. This path will be the solution to your maze.
- Put the overhead projector sheet on top of your paper and grab your permanent marker.
- Trace the outlines of the boxes onto your overhead projector sheet and label the ‘In’ and ‘Out’ boxes.
- Following the path, draw an arrow in each box that leads to the next box.
- Put extra arrows in some of the boxes to trick people into going the wrong way. Make sure you don’t make any shortcuts!
- Put arrows in any empty boxes. Again, be careful not to make any shortcuts.
- Get a fresh sheet of paper and copy your maze from the overhead projector sheet onto the paper. Look at it carefully to make sure it’s possible to get from the ‘In’ to the ‘Out’.
- Give your maze to your friends and family members to solve! You might want to photocopy it first, so they can draw on it.
This arrow maze is similar to a ‘normal’ maze – there is a start point and you follow paths to try to find the exit. If you trace all the paths you can follow, you’ll end up with a ‘map’ of the maze. This map will look similar to a normal maze.
There’s a big difference between arrow mazes and normal mazes. An arrow maze is directed – there are some paths that you can only follow in one direction. With a normal maze, you can go down any path in either direction.
Following paths to make connections has a range of important applications in science and everyday life. These networks of information can be used for traffic planning in cities, or analysing food webs in ecosystems. In many cases, these networks need directed links – paths that can be followed one way and not the other. For example, in traffic planning there may be one way streets. In food webs, an animal may eat a plant, but the plant can’t eat the animal!