The Rubik’s Cube, Puzzles, and Us

Fatima Choudhry, Photographer

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Picture a cube with 9 colorful squares on every face. One that fits perfectly in the hand and makes a satisfying click every time it turns. Your mind may immediately go to the Rubik’s Cube: the tricky puzzle you couldn’t conquer as a kid, the one that was finally solved, or even the one that has finally been ‘mastered.’ 

Though experiences may vary, you have probably had interactions with this cube. But, did you know that Erno Rubik, the creator of this puzzle, stills learns from it to this day? 

In his book Cubed, Rubik says that his understanding of The Rubik’s Cube had grown and taken on a new form. It took Rubik a long process of trial and error to create and solve his cube. Yet, despite years spent with the cube, and over $350 million in sales, Rubik continues to learn more from the Rubik’s Cube. 

Though Rubik can solve the cube within a minute, he prefers not to rush. He’d rather learn from solving it slowly. “I am not doing it because I want to become a champion, or because I am expecting new discoveries from playing it. At the same time, I am expecting some new potentials for the basic ideas,” Rubik wrote. “I see potentials which are not used yet. I’m looking for that.” 

We as a Northside community, especially now with all the coronavirus news and rising stress, should distract our minds in an effective way. By taking the time to do a puzzle or two, like the Rubik’s Cube, we can do just that!”

Many people start tackling the Rubik’s Cube for different reasons. However, their persistence with problem solving is what they all have in common. “The only reason I can solve a Rubik’s Cube is because I was jealous that my cousin could.” said Oliwia Mucha (Adv. 207). 

She also said, “I was in 7th grade, and it was frustrating watching the same video whenever I wanted to solve it. So, I wrote down the algorithms and started practicing all the time, no matter how long it took. [I] fine tuned [my Rubik’s Cube skills]… [at] school, at home, even at church. Now, because of that perseverance, I can solve it in one minute and 39 seconds.”

Senior Emiliano Holland (Adv.107), who has also conquered the cube, said, “Puzzles teach you how to be patient. For most people, they can’t really just solve a problem or complete a puzzle in one go without teaching themselves what will happen next. Patience is key because if you get frustrated and quit… your puzzles or your problems won’t be solved.” 

Much like Mucha and Holland mentioned, in order to problem solve, one needs to have a drive, patience, and motivation to complete the puzzle they would like to solve. Once that process is done, the puzzle becomes enjoyable to complete with ease.

The Rubik’s Cube is a puzzle that requires a great deal of problem solving in order to learn. Erno Rubik used problem solving to create his cube and is still learning a great deal from his invention. 

Like the Rubik’s Cube, many puzzles require a lot of effort to learn, solve, and complete. However, unlike the Rubik’s Cube, these commonly found puzzles are given less credit than they deserve. There are so many kinds of puzzles that people use but are not widely known. In fact, these games aren’t just exciting but also great for our brains. 

Psychologists Sternberg and Davidson said, “solving puzzles entails the ability to compare hidden information in a puzzle with information already in memory, and, more importantly, the ability to combine the information to form novel information and ideas.” 

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Northside staff and students have a special inclination towards problem solving. Dr. Eakin, ECT teacher and sponsor of the chess team describes her interest in puzzles: “I think working on puzzles is a great activity! They can be totally frustrating, but they are always fun and rewarding once you solve them. I also think the puzzle-solving mindset is an important one to cultivate in life, which is one of the reasons we talk about problem solving skills a lot in ECT.

“Every day we are faced with all kinds of problems that we have to figure out. If we treat these problems more like puzzles to be eventually solved and accept that it may take a few attempts before we find a solution, we’ll be much better prepared to tackle them and feel less overwhelmed as we work through them!” 

The Northside community can distract our minds in an effective way during these challenging times. By taking the time to do a puzzle or two, like the Rubik’s Cube, you can do just that!

In addition to the Rubik’s Cube, there are many different puzzles that could bring more fun into your life:

1. Sudoku: a logic-based puzzle where the goal is to fill a 9×9 grid with digits so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3×3 subgrids all contain digits 1-9.

2. Nonogram: these are picture logic puzzles with cells in a grid that must either be colored or left blank according to numbers of the grid in order to reveal a certain picture.

3. Four fours: a mathematical puzzle, where one has to find the simplest mathematical expression for every whole number from 0 to a certain maximum, using only common mathematical symbols and fours.

4. Tetris: a block combing and stacking game where the goal is to prevent the blocks from stacking up all the way to the top of the screen for as long as one can.

5. Jenga: a puzzle of physical skill which has players take turns removing 1 block out of a 54 tower of stacked blocks, the goal is to remove the blocks without making the tower fall. If it falls you lose.

6. Crossword puzzles: a word puzzle that is made up of a square or a rectangular grid of white and black-shaded squares. The goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues, in order to get the answers.

You can check out these puzzles at Target, Amazon, or a local convenience store. Puzzles are a great way to spend your time, stimulate the brain, and relieve stress.