The History Behind Magic Squares You Never Knew You Needed to Know

Word, number, and jigsaw puzzles are great workouts for your brain!

The different types of puzzles stimulate different areas of your brain. For example, crossword puzzles will stimulate different areas of the brain than sudoku puzzles.

Solving puzzles creates a sense of satisfaction and can help reduce stress. 

Keep reading to find out more about magic squares and the history of others who love solving math puzzles, too!

What Is a Magic Square?

A magic square is a box made up of the same number of rows and columns. The numbers in each row, column, and main diagonal will all add up to the same number. 

In a true magic square, each number will only be used once. This means that for each of the different sizes of grids there is a number that will always be the solution. 

For a 3 x 3 grid, the magic constant is 15. For a 4 x 4 grid, the magic constant is 34. If you want to move beyond simple math you can see the formula for figuring out a magic constant at this site.

Just a Math Puzzle

Magic squares are often used as learning math puzzles to help students practice their addition in a different way. 

These puzzles do not have a magic constant but do tend to follow the rule that each number is only used once. 

History of Magic Squares

What, there’s a history behind magic squares? Yes!

Tracing back as far as 2800 B.C. to ancient China, magic squares have been a source of interest to mathematicians, philosophers, and artists for a long time. 

The Legend of Lo Shu

The Chinese legend of Lo Shu tells of a time when rivers were flooding and the river gods sent a turtle to answer the people’s cries for help. A child noticed a dotted pattern on the back of the turtle, the first magic square. 

Each of the rows and columns on the turtle’s back added up to the number 15. So the people made 15 sacrifices to the river gods and the floods receded and their lives were spared. 

Magic Squares Throughout History

Discovering new magic squares has been the pursuit of scholars for a long time.

In the 9th century, Arab astrologers used magic squares to work out horoscopes.

For a long time, magic squares were literally thought to be magical squares, and that those who studied them were witches. While this was not the case, you can learn more about what to expect from witchcraft courses if that interests you. 

Other notable uses of magic squares are from:

11th-12th century diabolic 4 x 4 magic square in India

1514 in Albert Durer’s painting Melancholia

Ben Franklin’s 8 x 8 and 16 x 16 magic squares

The Sagrada Familia Cathedral by architect Antoni Gaudi.

Math Puzzle with Hidden History

Next time you sit down to solve magic squares you will understand the rich history behind them. You are in company with many great minds who loved to find and solve path puzzles, too!

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