I am known for not being very coordinated, so wrapping presents is a task that I usually fail at epically... or pass on to someone else to do for me. That's why I'm rejoicing that someone has figured out a much easier way to wrap gifts for the holidays: Mathematician Katie Steckles created a guide for mathematical present wrapping that's getting a lot of attention on YouTube — and with good reason. It's really quite genius and makes it much easier to wrap all of your holiday gifts, no matter what shape or size they might be. Steckles organized the video according to present shape, devloping mathematical formulas for each shape that you can use for virtually any gift.
According to Steckles, the video was inspired by her love of both wrapping Christmas presents (such people exist?) and mathematics. In combining those two things, she also managed to provide a valuable service for the good of all humanity. Seriously — who else feels my pain of how time consuming, labor intensive, and often self-loathing-inspiring wrapping presents can be? It looks like Christmas came early!
Steckles demonstrates a variety of present shapes in the video, including basics like cuboids (that is, a six-faced box) and more technical shapes like equilateral triangular prisms (which sort of resemble a pyramid). Let's take a look at three of her formulas below; if none of them cover your present shape, scroll down to watch the full video.
For rectangularly shaped presents, Steckles instructs you to make sure you have enough paper to go halfway up the face of the object. If you then use the standard technique of wrapping the paper around the gift and folding in the ends, you'll find that by bringing the paper exactly halfway up the side, all of the corners meet in the exact same place. Easy peasy!
If the shape of your present is cylindrical, use this easy math instead of just rolling the paper around the gift and trying to make it fit. Instead, use Pi, which is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, equal to 3.14159. Then multiply the diameter by three, with a little bit of space left over for the extra amount in Pi — and lo and behold, the wrapping paper fits perfectly around the cylinder.
3. Squishy Presents
For presents like clothing or bags of candy, Steckles also has a solution to make wrapping these non-constant gifts a breeze. Although this one doesn't involve any math, Steckles provides the tip of wrapping the paper around the present and lining it up where the edge of the pattern is. This makes it appear to be one continuous piece of paper, instead of showing the edges. Then, you simply take it down the middle, fold the sides, and your present is wrapped!
If you think these formulas are cool, this is just the beginning! Watch the full video below to watch Steckles wrap the most technically challenging shaped present of all: A flat square.