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Cuboctahedron: A Guide to Space


Rachelle Buna and Frosilda Pushani
Macomb Mathematics Science Technology Center
GAT/IDS
9C
Mr.Acre
28 February 2014

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Cuboctahedron: A Guide to Space
Around 40 years ago, the record-breaking human calculator was being taught to add
double-digit numbers from right to left. However, Scott Flansburg looked at the problems a little
differently. He solved the addition problems from left to right and thought about them in a unique
manner. The cuboctahedron is a semi-regular three-dimensional figure that can also be viewed in
many different ways. It can be viewed as a cube with the corners cut off at the midpoints of the
edges of the cube. Another perspective is a right square prism that has four rectangular pyramids
attached on the lateral faces. The last way it can be viewed as is eight tetrahedrons and six
regular square pyramids. Using the given measurement of an edge of the cube, the total surface
area of the cuboctahedron will be found. The volume will also be solved using the three different
methods a cuboctahedron is viewed. These methods are a guide to all the different ways
problems can be looked at.

Figure 1. Cuboctahedron
The red lines on Figure 1 represent the edges of the cube that enclose the cuboctahedron.
The measurement of one edge was given and is 24.6 cm. The cuboctahedron is shown by the
blue lines above and features twenty-four congruent edges as well as fourteen faces, six being
squares, and eight being equilateral triangles.

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Finding the total surface area of the cuboctahedron will require knowing the surface area
of one square face and one triangular face. These will be found using the properties of 45-4590 and 30-60-90 triangles.

Figure2.FaceoftheCubethatenclosestheCuboctahedron
Figure 2 shows a face of the cube with the cuboctahedron enclosed inside it. One edge of
the cube is known to be 24.6 cm, which is represented by x. The vertices of the square face of the
cuboctahedron act as midpoints to the edges of the cube. This means that one of the legs of the
corner triangles above is 12.3 cm, since of 24.6 is 12.3. These triangles are 45-45-90,
meaning that the 45-45-90 triangle properties can be used. Since the legs of the triangles are
12.3 cm and the hypotenuse of 45-45-90 triangles are 2 larger, it means that the hypotenuse
of the triangles or the edges of the square face of the cuboctahedron are all 12.32 cm. There are
six square faces on the cuboctahedron.

Figure 3. Triangle Face of the Cuboctahedron

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Figure 3 shows an equilateral triangle that is also a face of the cuboctahedron. Since all
edges of the cuboctahedron are congruent, the edges of the square face can be used on the
triangle face. Although the sides of the triangle have been concluded to be 12.32 cm, the height
of the triangle is also needed for the surface area. Because this triangle is equilateral, the 30-6090 triangular properties can be used to find the height. The height of the triangle is a bisector for
the base, meaning that half the base is 6.152 cm, since it is half of 12.32, or 1/4x2, x
representing 24.6 cm, the edge of the cube. The height of the triangle is 3 larger than half the
base. This concludes that the height of the triangle is 6.156 cm. There are eight triangular faces
on the cuboctahedron.
Now that the side lengths and altitudes for the two types of faces of the cuboctahedron
are known, the areas of the faces can be found using the formulas shown in Figure 4 below.
Figure 4. Total Surface Area of the Cuboctahedron Step-by-Step

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Figure 4 shows the step-by-step math of finding the total surface area of the
cuboctahedron. The heights and altitudes of the square and triangle faces were plugged in to their
area formulas. The height and base of the square were found to be 12.32 cm. To find the area,
12.32 cm had to be squared. After being squared, the area of one square had to be multiplied by
six, the number of total square faces on the cuboctahedron. The equilateral triangle was already
known to have a base of 12.32 cm and the height was concluded to be 6.156 cm by using the
30-60-90 triangle properties. To find the area of the triangle, the base and height of the triangle
had to be multiplied, and then divided by 2 or multiplied by . After the area of the triangle was
found, the area had to be multiplied by eight, the number of total triangle faces on the

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cuboctahedron. To find the total surface area of the cuboctahedron, the areas of the squares and
triangles faces have to be added.
After finding the total surface area of the cuboctahedron, the volume will be found using
three different methods. The first method will be a cube with the corners cut off at the midpoints
of the edges of the cube. The second method will involve looking at the cuboctahedron as a right
square prism that has four rectangular pyramids attached on the lateral faces. The last method is
eight tetrahedrons and six regular square pyramids. The volume of the cuboctahedron will be
found all three ways. The volume should remain the same each time if solved correctly because
the values and space of the cuboctahedron will not change.

Figure 5. First Method to finding the Volume of the Cuboctahedron


Figure 5 shows the first method to finding the volume of the cuboctahedron. The green
lines above show the corner pyramid that will be cut off. Each corner of the cube will be cut off,
which will end up with the cuboctahedron. To find the volume of the cuboctahedron, the volume
of the cube will have to be found as well as the volume of one corner pyramid. The volume of
the cube is found by multiplying the length, width, and height of the cube. One edge of the cube

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is 24.6 cm. The volume of the corner pyramids will be subtracted from the volume of the cube.
This will give the total and exact volume of the cuboctahedron.
Figure 6. Net of the Corner Pyramid

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The net of the corner pyramid above in Figure 6 will aid the finding of the volume. The
right triangle highlighted in red above is being used as the base to simplify the math and time.
Finding the volume of the pyramid requires knowing the area of the base as well as the height of
the pyramid. After that information is found, it has to be multiplied together and then multiplied
by 1/3. The area of the base, the right triangle highlighted in red, is found by multiplying the base
and height of the triangle. In this case, the base will be 12.3 cm and the height is also 12.3 cm

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since the base being used forms a 90 angle with the height. The area of the base is 151.29cm2.
The height of the pyramid is 12.3 cm as well, because when the right triangle is used as the base

of the pyramid, the concave edges that form a 90 angle become the height.
Figure 7. First Method of Volume of Cuboctahedron Step-by-Step
Figure 7 is a step-by-step guide on how to solve for the volume of the cuboctahedron by
cutting the corners of the cube. The volume of the cube is first found by multiplying the length,

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width, and height. Multiplying the area of the base of the pyramid by the height of the pyramid,
and then multiplying it again by 1/3 finds the volume of one corner pyramid. After the volume of
one corner pyramid was found, 8, the number of total corner pyramids, was also multiplied. The
volume of all corner pyramids was subtracted from the volume of the cube; this gave an answer
of 12,405.78 cm3. The volume of the cuboctahedron is 12,405.78 cm3.
The volume of the cuboctahedron was found using the first method. The volume will now
be found using the second method. The second method involves looking at the cuboctahedron as
a right square prism with four rectangular pyramids attached on the lateral faces. The volume
should remain 12,405.78 cm3 if solved correctly.

Figure 8. Right Square Prism and Rectangular Pyramid


Figure 8 shows the second method of finding the volume of the cuboctahedron. First, the
volume of the prism will be found. After that, the volume of the rectangular pyramid will be
found, and multiplied by 4, the number of total rectangular pyramids. The volume of the prism
will be added to the volume of the pyramids. The volume should be 12,405.78 cm3.
Figure 9. Net of the Right Square Prism

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Figure 9 shows the net of the right square prism. The volume of the prism is found by
finding the area of the base and the height of the prism. The two found pieces of information
would then be multiplied together. The base of the prism is actually a square face of the
cuboctahedron. Since the lengths of the square face of the cuboctahedron were already known to
be 12.32 cm, they now have to be squared to find the area. The area of the base of the prism is
302.58 cm2. The height of the prism is the length of the cube, which encloses the cuboctahedron.

The height of the prism is 24.6 cm.


Figure 10. Rectangular Pyramid
Figure 10 shows the pyramid that is attached to the right prism. This pyramid is shown in
a different perspective. It is shown through the big cube that encloses the cuboctahedron. This
figure will give a better understanding of the rectangular pyramids.

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Figure 11. Net of Rectangular Pyramid
Figure 11 is a net of the rectangular pyramid. This rectangular pyramid is going to be
attached to one of the lateral faces of the right square prism to form the cuboctahedron. To find
the volume of the cuboctahedron this method, the volume of one pyramid has to be found as well
as the volume of the right square prism. To find the volume of the pyramid the area of the base
has to be found as well as the height of the pyramid. The base has a height of 24.6 cm, the height
of the cube. The base of the base has a measurement of 12.32 cm, the height of a square and
triangle face on the cuboctahedron. The area of the base is 302.582 cm2. The height of the
pyramid is found using the Pythagorean theorem (a2+b2=c2). The slant height of one of the
triangle faces has to be found in order to find the height of the pyramid. The equilateral triangle
has a height of 6.156 cm. This was found using the properties of a 30-60-90 triangle. Half the
height of the base is also going to be used in order to find the height of the pyramid. Plugging the
information in to the Pythagorean theorem will be a little different. The slant height of the
triangle is going to be used as the hypotenuse and half the height of the base is going to be used
as the leg. The mission is to solve for a.

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Figure 12. Height of the Rectangular Pyramid
Figure 12 shows the step-by-step guide to finding the height of the rectangular pyramid
using the Pythagorean theorem.

Figure 13. Second Method of Volume of Cuboctahedron Step-by-Step


Figure 13 shows the step-by-step guide to finding the volume of the cuboctahedron using
the second method. The second method involves looking at the cuboctahedron as a right square
prism with four rectangular pyramids attached to the prisms lateral faces. The volume of the

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rectangular pyramid was found and then multiplied by 4, the number of total rectangular
pyramids. After that, the volume of the prism was found. The volume of the pyramids and the
volume of the prism were added together to find the total volume of the cuboctahedron. The
volume of the cuboctahedron is 12,405.78 cm3. This volume matches the volume found in the
first method, meaning that the math was done correctly.
The volume of the cuboctahedron has been solved using both the first and second
methods. The third and final method will involve viewing the cuboctahedron as eight tetrahedron
and six regular square pyramids. To find the volume of the cuboctahedron using the third
method, the volume of one tetrahedron and one regular square pyramid has to be found.

Figure 14. Net of the Tetrahedron

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To find the volume of the tetrahedron, the area of the base has to be found, as well as the
height of the pyramid. A face of the tetrahedron is a face on the cuboctahedron, hence why all
sides of the triangles are 12.32 cm. The tetrahedron is made up of four equilateral triangles,
meaning that any of the triangles can be used as the base, and the 30-60-90 triangular
properties can be used. The base of the base is 12.32 cm and the height of the base is 6.156
cm, based on the 30-60-90 triangle properties. The height of the pyramid is found by using the
Pythagorean theorem. The slant height of the triangle, 6.156 acts as the hypotenuse. A third of
the height of a triangle face acts as a leg. One third is used because that is where the heights

intersect when using different sides of the triangle as bases. So, 6.156 and 2.056 are plugged
in to the Pythagorean theorem and are solved for a, the height of the pyramid.
Figure 15. Height of the Tetrahedron
Figure 15 shows how the Pythagorean theorem helped solve for the height of the
tetrahedron. The height of the pyramid is 201.72 cm. After multiplying the area of the base by
the height of the pyramid, the outcome should be multiplied by 1/3. The volume of the
tetrahedron is 620.289 cm3.
Figure 16. Net of the Regular Square Pyramid

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To find the volume of the regular square pyramid, the area of the base has to be solved as
well as the height of the pyramid. The square base is a face on the cuboctahedron, which means
that 12.32 is a side of the base, as solved previously. Squaring 12.32 solves for the area of the
base. The height of the pyramid will be found using the Pythagorean theorem. The slant height of
one of the triangle faces has to be found and be plugged into the Pythagorean theorem as the
hypotenuse. The triangle faces are equilateral meaning the 30-60-90 triangular properties can
be used. Since the base of the triangle is 12.32, the height is 6.156, according to the properties
of 30-60-90 triangles. So, half the base and the slant height of a triangle face are plugged into
the Pythagorean theorem.

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Figure 17. Height of the Regular Square Pyramid


Figure 17 shows the step-by-step guide to finding the height of the regular square
pyramid. The height is 12.3 cm. After multiplying the area of the base by the height of the
pyramid, the outcome should be multiplied by 1/3. The volume of the regular square pyramid is
1240.578cm3.
Figure 18. Third Method of Volume of Cuboctahedron Step-by-Step

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Figure 18 shows the step-by-step guide to finding the volume of the cuboctahedron using
the third method. The third method involves viewing the cuboctahedron as eight tetrahedrons and
six regular square pyramids. The volume of each pyramid was found and then added together.
The cuboctahedron is a semi-regular three-dimensional figure. It can be viewed in
three different perspectives. One, a cube with the corners cut off at the midpoints of the edges of
the cube. Two, a right square prism with four rectangular pyramids attached to the prisms lateral
faces. Three, eight tetrahedrons and six regular square pyramids. The volume should remain the
same each time it is solved using the different methods. This is because each method of viewing
the cuboctahedron is the same when in comes to space, the volume is the space inside the object,
and the space never changes unless the object does. The only problem encountered during this
project was minor miscalculations.
In summary, a cuboctahedron is two different platonic solids, the cube, and it dual, the
octahedron. Not only was the total surface area found, but the volume was solved using the three
different perspectives a cuboctahedron can be viewed in. Life situations can also be solved by
looking at them through different perspectives. Scott Flansburg is an example of this. He took
something as simple as numbers and looked at them in completely different ways, solving
problems faster than a calculator. This is where he got his nickname the human calculator. So
just like Flansburg and his numbers, the cuboctahedron is one of many different situations that
can be looked at in unique perspectives.

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Works Cited
"Scott Flansburg The Human Calculator | Global Ambassador of World Maths Day." Scott
Flansburg The Human Calculator. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
<http://thehumancalculator.com>.

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