Learn how math can help you solve all of your gift-wrapping woes

A mathematician shows you how to perfectly wrap all your presents

Growing up with brothers meant holidays and birthdays were spent not only wrapping gifts from me, but from them as well. And while I’ll probably never be on par with Macy’s gift-wrapping professionals, it turns out I could’ve been getting a little help from geometry all along.

Mathematician Katie Steckles does all kinds of cool things with math, so it’s only appropriate she uses equations and measurements to wrap her presents. In this video, she demonstrates several techniques for making rectangular boxes, packages with square cross-sections, Toblerones, and cylinders look their best when covered with festive paper. Finally, you can gift someone a can of Pringles using the perfect amount of wrapping. She also has a trick for wrapping up squishy gifts, like marshmallows. What? You don’t give your friends Pringles and marshmallows? What kind of friend are you?

One of Steckles’s coolest techniques is for relatively flat squares. You take a square piece of wrapping, place the box at an angle, and fold the corners so they meet in the middle. Mathematician Dr. Sara Santos showed Britain’s The One Show her formula for cutting the perfect square back in 2005. It involves measuring the diagonal and height of the box, but Santos says she wanted to use the least amount of paper and tape and have the paper’s pattern line up perfectly. Measure your present’s diagonal, then add it to one and a half times the box’s height to find the length of the paper’s sides. Put the gift in the middle of the paper and fold in the corners and tuck in the extra bits. It still takes some dexterity, but the result is an impressive-looking package your friend will admire for roughly 2.5 seconds before tearing it open.

Sadly, she doesn’t demonstrate how to wrap a bottle of wine without it looking like a total mess, so you’ll just have to keep investing in those bottle gift bags.

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