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Archive for Monday, May 18, 2009

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Rubik’s Cube fun revisited for educational purposes

May 18, 2009

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Most people who grew up in the ’80s remember the Rubik’s Cube, that small, six-colored cube that could provide hours of entertainment as well as huge frustrations.

Now, a Boston-based company has launched a program using the childhood favorite to teach new skills to children ages 8 to 18.

“You Can Do the Cube!” is based on the belief that solving the cube provides children with self-esteem and confidence benefits, as well as improving problem-solving skills, says campaign director Scott Mercer.

“The premise that we wanted to share is the experience of solving the 3-by-3 cube, to help kids increase their confidence and self-esteem,” Mercer says. “They feel smarter and start looking at problems in a new way, paying attention and persevering, and they can have success.”

Available for download from the program’s Web site, www.youcandothecube.com, “You Can Do the Cube!” is intended for math classes as well as summer camps and after school programs. By developing a best-practices guide using feedback from 40 camps, the program has created a six-stage guide, walking children through the steps to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

For teachers, camp counselors or after-school program supervisors, the program offers a kit with 12 cubes and 12 solution guides for $49.99, Mercer says.

“You can use the cube in so many ways to suit your needs,” he says. “And we’re not giving away the secret, because you still have to figure it out. You never lose the learning and challenging part.”

Additionally, the program also encourages self-esteem and peer mentoring, as well as providing a real-world base for geometry, volume, spacing and several other mathematical concepts, Mercer says.

These claims make sense to Bridget Biggs, a Kansas University assistant psychology professor who specializes in peer relationships and emotional well-being in children.

“Kids who are deprived at an earlier age, that don’t have as much stimulation, tend to have lower IQ scores, which reflects lots of things,” Biggs says. “Certainly stimulation is a good thing.”

Biggs would have to do a scientific evaluation of the program to know for sure, but she says her experience with other child psychology projects leads her to believe the program could benefit children.

“I would think that it makes sense,” she says. “The more we use our brains, the more that we’re able to use them when we need to.”

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