Rubik’s Cube Coding

Today’s Contributor: Marlene O’Keefe
This is Marlene’s 6th year teaching STEM at Bryker Woods Elementary.

Three years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Here is the deal about work, play, and education”. I teach at Bryker Woods Elementary and where we have about 400 students. This is my sixth year teaching STEAM to all our students Kindergarten through 5th grade. Lately, I’ve been thinking back to that blog post about play. Giving students a chance to play is fantastic way to personalize a students’ experience with the curriculum. And when you give students the chance to play and CODE, it can be powerful.

I know many teachers are signed-up for the HourOfCode this year. It’s always nice to introduce coding with an unplugged or tactile activity such as Move It! Move It!  This is my second year to implement the You Can do the Cube program. If you want to see 28 sixth graders fall silent in complete and utter focus on something other than a computer, give them a few tips and hand them a Rubik’s Cube.

I am using the Rubik’s Cube as an unplugged activity to introduce HourOfCode to my 5th graders. When students saw the cubes, they said, “Mrs. O’Keefe, how did you know?” Apparently the Rubik’s Cube has become highly retro-popular.

No experience is necessary to introduce your student’s to this wonderful puzzle. To get acquainted with this program, visit where you can find many free resources including curriculum, instructional videos, and most importantly an algorithm (Solution Guide) for solving the Rubik’s Cube 3×3.

The algorithm is broken down into teeny tiny steps and six stages. When I introduce the Rubik’s cube, I make sure to let my students know that I am personally on stage three and hope to work on getting to stage four over the holidays. This gives them an idea of how long it might take to accomplish all the stages. Most students can complete stage one within one class period. And believe me, they will celebrate the accomplishment of every stage. For example, in stage two, you will hear student’s exclaiming, “I did the daisy! I did the daisy!”

In a few of my classes I’ve had one student who already knew how to solve it. This is a super opportunity for those students to shine as a coach and teacher. One student was so good at demonstrating basic moves that we projected his hand movements on the big screen. Another shy student was surprisingly fast at learning the algorithm. We set up an “expert” table for her to help other students. You can also borrow a mosaic builder set. These include templates or you can create your own designs. You only need to solve for one side of the cube to create mosaics.

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