Euler's Formula

(There is another "Euler's Formula" about complex numbers,
this page is about the one used in Geometry and Graphs)

Euler's Formula

For any polyhedron that doesn't intersect itself, the

always equals 2


This can be written: F + V − E = 2


Try it on the cube:

A cube has 6 Faces, 8 Vertices, and 12 Edges,


6 + 8 − 12 = 2

Example With Platonic Solids

Let's try with the 5 Platonic Solids:

Name FacesVerticesEdgesF+V-E
Icosahedron Icosahedron2012302

(In fact Euler's Formula can be used to prove there are only 5 Platonic Solids)

Why always 2?
Imagine taking the cube and adding an edge
(from corner to corner of one face).

We get an extra edge, plus an extra face:

7 + 8 − 13 = 2

cube extra face

Or try to include another vertex,
and we get an extra edge:

6 + 913 = 2.

cube extra vertex
"No matter what we do, we always end up with 2"
(But only for this type of Polyhedron ... read on!)

The Sphere

sphere like icosahedron

All Platonic Solids (and many other solids) are like a Sphere ... we can reshape them so that they become a Sphere (move their corner points, then curve their faces a bit).

For this reason we know that F + V − E = 2 for a sphere

(Be careful, we can not simply say a sphere has 1 face, and 0 vertices and edges, for F+V−E=1)

So, the result is 2 again.

But Not Always 2 ... !

Now that you see how this works, let's discover how it doesn't work.

What if we joined up two opposite corners of an icosahedron?

It is still an icosahedron (but no longer convex).

In fact it looks a bit like a drum where someone has stitched the top and bottom together.

Now, there are the same number of edges and faces ... but one less vertex!


F + V − E = 1

Oh No! It doesn't always add to 2.

The reason it didn't work was that this new shape is basically different ... that joined bit in the middle means that two vertices get reduced to 1.

Euler Characteristic

So, F+V−E can equal 2, or 1, and maybe other values, so the more general formula is

F + V − E = χ

Where χ is called the "Euler Characteristic".

Here are a few examples:

Shape χ
Mobius Stripmobius strip0



And the Euler Characteristic can also be less than zero.

This is the "Cubohemioctahedron": It has 10 Faces (it may look like more, but some of the "inside" faces are really just one face), 24 Edges and 12 Vertices, so:

F + V − E = −2

In fact the Euler Characteristic is a basic idea in Topology (the study of the Nature of Space).

Donut and Coffee Cup

torus becomes coffee cup
(Animation courtesy
Wikipedia User:Kieff)

Lastly, this discussion would be incomplete without showing that a Donut and a Coffee Cup are really the same!

Well, they can be deformed into one another.

We say the two objects are "homeomorphic" (from Greek homoios = identical and morphe = shape)

Just like the platonic solids are homeomorphic to the sphere.

And your body is homeomorphic to a torus if you pinch your nose closed.