Science Gift Ideas: Rubik’s Cube

When I was in elementary school, there was a huge Rubik’s Cube fad. In addition to the Rubik’s Cube, there was the Jacob’s ladder-like Rubik’s Magic, Barrel, Diamond, and many more. My favorite was the Pyraminx because it was the most complex puzzle I could actually solve on my own.

I am happy to see today that the Rubik’s Cube has made a serious comeback. Speedcubing events are taking place all over the world, and new records are being set regularly. Even so, the Rubik’s Cube as a gift will often be quickly forgotten for most children.

The problem with the Rubik’s cube comes with it’s unsolvability. 99.9% of us are never going to figure it out on our own, and that’s why it’s important to go online and learn how to solve one.

It’s a surprisingly easy thing to do. You only need to memorize six simple Algorithms to Solve a Rubik’s cube. “Algorithm” is a scary word, but it shouldn’t be. An algorithm is simply a set of steps to perform some task. For instance, the directions on a Betty Crocker box are an algorithm for making a cake. You can learn how to solve a Rubik’s Cube in about an hour. That’s pretty amazing when you consider there are forty-three quintillion possible permutations to a Rubik’s Cube.

A Rubik’s Cube is best solved in three layers. The first is super-easy to master, the second involves memorizing two algorithms that are mirrors of one another, and the third is where things get a bit more complex.

The following are pictures of my Rubik’s Cube in various states of completion, solving layers one, two, and three. Just ignore the numbers on the cube, I wrote those on there in permanent ink so I could play sodoku, which prompted a friend to ask me, “Are you that hurting for things to do???”

Rubik's Cube Scrambled
Rubik’s Cube Scrambled
Rubik's Cube Layer One
Rubik’s Cube Layer One
Rubik's Cube Layer TWo
Rubik’s Cube Layer Two
Rubik's Cube Layer Three
Rubik’s Cube Layer Three
Add a Twist
Add a Twist

The following two videos by Dan Brown are the best instructionals I’ve found for learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. You’ll need to watch them several times, pausing and rewinding, and write down the algorithms on a cheat sheet for practicing while your waiting in line at the grocery store, on a plane, or ignoring your significant other.

How to solve a Rubik’s Cube (Part One)

How to solve a Rubik’s Cube (Part Two)

Dan Brown has also got other great videos online, like how to lubricate your Rubik’s Cube using petroleum jelly for speed cubing and other nifty tips.

Rubik’s Cubes are a great way to teach spatial relations. Learning how to solve a Rubik’s Cube only gave me a better appreciation for the puzzle and a better understanding of how the parts worked.

Adding a Sodoku Layer is great way to teach math, but be sure to give the cube a few days for the ink to set, or find a better way to paint the numbers on. Mine keep rubbing off.

If you’ve got a free weekend on your hands, you might want to try making a Rubik’s Cube out of Dice too.

Happy Cubing!






4 responses to “Science Gift Ideas: Rubik’s Cube”