- About a dozen New York City schools have introduced a child-friendly Rubik's Cube-based math curriculum devised for students as young as 8. In addition, New York City's Department of Parks and Recreation is planning to introduce Rubik's Cube solving at its 32 after-school program sites citywide within the next few weeks.
These actions are happening under a program conceived around two years ago by the company that owns the license to the Rubik's Cube, Seven Towns, which is based in London. In an attempt to make the cube part of an educational curriculum, the company took the relatively cryptic problem-solving guides and made them more student-friendly by adding colorful illustrations and simplifying the instructions.
Scott Mercer, the campaign director behind the program, says that 85 to 95 percent of children can usually solve the puzzle by following the instructions in the guide. About 1,500 of the classroom kits have been sold in the last two years, he said.
Though it's been nearly 30 years since the Rubik's Cube took the world by storm, it remains a perennial favorite, with more than 300 million cubes sold worldwide. (The iconic Mondrian-colored cube earned a place as a permanent exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art.)
Teachers are attracted to the puzzle-solving lesson because it helps with geometry, algebra, direction-following, memorization and perseverance. But most importantly, teachers say it gives students a sense of accomplishment; they often give certificates as a reward to students who solve the cube.
That sense of confidence is noticeable when a student solves the cube in public without a guide and wows a nearby adult. "Their whole disposition changes," Mr. Mercer said. "That is the most significant part about the program."
The lessons of the Rubik's Cube were experienced firsthand by the 40 parks employees that were trained on Friday as part of the city's after-school program.
"With the kids, they learn life lessons on how to deal with stress and problem-solving, and you can definitely see it in the adults," said Cindy Caruso, who coordinates the department's after-school programs.
"It could be pretty frustrating," said Ms. Caruso, who tried her hand at solving the cube. "Some of them would just kind of give up."
But then there was a sense of mutual support and cooperation among the employees, which helped everyone get through, Ms. Caruso said.
Seven Towns sells the Rubik's Cube classroom kit for $50, which comes with 12 cubes, 12 solution guides, a DVD and certificates of achievement. Rubik's Cubes usually cost $12 to $15 (and even $150 for a digital version).
But for those with a more limited budget, the guide, certificates and other material are free at www.YouCanDoTheCube.com. In that case, the students have to provide their own Rubik's Cubes.
The New York City schools already using the program span private, public, elementary, middle and high schools. They include the Town School and Hunter College Elementary School in Manhattan; East Flatbush Community Research School, Bushwick Community High School, Brownsville Academy High School, Public School 99, Bay Ridge Preparatory School, James Madison High School, and Intermediate School 187 in Brooklyn; SAR Academy in the Bronx; and Tottenville High School in Staten Island.
The rubik's cube frustration legend