Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Towers of Hanoi Works

Author's Note

My favorite puzzles involve patterns, which is why I looked forward to solving the Towers of Hanoi. As I attempted a trial run at relocating the disks, the solution was just out of reach -- like a word I couldn't quite recall. I wasn't ready to read the answer key, which spelled out step-by-step moves, so I set the game aside. And, like most puzzlers, the answer became clearer as I gained distance from the problem. As I braided my daughter's hair, the pattern presented itself: I moved strands of hair from A to C, then to B and back to A. Sometimes the best connections come unexpectedly.

Related Articles


  • Anderson, Matt, et al. "Biographies: Edouard Lucas." (June 4, 2012)
  • Hall, Granville Stanley, et al. "A Study of Puzzles." The American Journal of Psychology. University of Illinois Press. 1897. (June 4, 2012)
  • Lawrence Hall of Science. "Tower of Hanoi." (June 4, 2012)
  • Math Forum. "Tower of Hanoi." (June 4, 2012)
  • Miyake, Akira, et al. "The Unity and Diversity of Executive Functions and Their Contributions to Complex 'Frontal Lobe' Tasks: A Latent Variable Analysis." The Journal of Cognitive Psychology. 2000. Vol. 41, 49 to 100. (June 4, 2012)
  • Popular Science Monthly. "Obituary Notes." January 1892. (June 4, 2012)
  • Roberts, Eric. "Recursive Procedures." Stanford University. (June 4, 2012)
  • Stockmeyer, Paul. "The Tower of Hanoi." (June 4, 2012)
  • Wolfram MathWorld. "Tower of Hanoi." (June 4, 2012)