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April 25, 2014

Rubik’s Cube inspires learning, leads to competition

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Joan Vasey
Scout Editor

The General Myer Elementary School Rubick’s Cube Team, front row, from left: Jordan Larrabee, Brandon Deleon and Brooke Griffin, all 10; and back row: Christen McCracken, fifth grade teacher; Luke Mitter, 11; Lillian Synder,10; Madison Whitworth, 10; Caleb Larson, 11, Lori Francis, 11 and Chelsea Bovara, coach. Not pictured: Chase Deleon, 9, alternate team member.

In 1974, Erno Rubik, a young professor of architecture in Budapest, Hungary, created a solid cube that twisted and turned — and did not break or fall apart.

With colorful stickers on its sides, the cube got scrambled and thus emerged the first “Rubik’s Cube.”

It took well over a month for Rubik to work out the solution to his puzzle.

The Ideal Toy Company internationally launched the product in 1980.

Since then, an estimated 350 million Rubik’s Cubes have been sold. One in seven people alive have played with one.

The beauty of the Rubik’s Cube is that when people look at a scrambled one, they know exactly what to do without instruction. Yet without instruction it is almost impossible to solve, making it one of the most infuriating and engaging inventions ever conceived, according to the website www.rubiks.com/history.

Holding the Rubik’s Cube, twisting and turning the parts, can help children of all ages grasp math concepts including area, perimeter, volume, angles, algorithms and enumeration, among many other geometry and algebraic topics.

Some teachers are even using the Rubik’s Cube to teach life lessons and 21st century skills such as focus, following directions, memorization, sequencing, problem solving, critical thinking and perseverance, according to www.youcandothecube.com/math-twist/.
Chelsea Bovara, technology integration specialist at Fort Huachuca’s General Myer Elementary School learned about teaching with a Rubik’s Cube at a conference about teaching gifted children.

The presenter was using the cube with fourth graders.

Since Bovara was a fourth grade teacher at the time, she thought, “Why not try it?

“I started teaching the Rubik’s Cube curriculum in my gifted and talented classes to challenge spatial awareness skills, with no vision of taking a team to competition,” said Bovara.

“It soon became apparent that other students that did not test into the program were interested in trying the cube, too. If students were interested, I gave them permission slips to take home so they could sign out a cube and start learning,” she explained.

Bovara described how without any type of prompting, third, fourth and fifth grade students started showing up at recess to learn the cube and get help and ideas from fellow cubers.

“I told the group how sometimes there are competitions to see what team could solve a bunch of cubes the fastest,” Bovara continued. “They showed immediate interest in going to one.

“I researched and found the closet [You CAN do the Rubik’s Cube Tournament] was in Phoenix [on April 5]. I told them they would have to show me they were really serious about competing and I would bring the fastest eight students.”

She described how students started meeting during recess and how two weeks before competition they ran trials to select the team.
“The team’s goal was to make it to the final round and they did,” Bovara stated. The team came in sixth out of 12, and two boys competed and placed in solo competitions.

“All the other team coaches were impressed with their time and ability to work together so seamlessly since this was the first year our team had been together,” Bovara said, adding that the other teams had been competing together for at least two years.




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