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How and Why to Get Started with Solving the Rubik’s Cube

stuffed-suitcase-williamToday I’m handing the keyboard over to my husband William, and he’s sharing all about his new hobby, the Rubik’s Cube. Read on to find out tips for getting your kids, or yourself, started on solving the Rubik’s Cube.

By now everyone has heard of the world’s best-selling puzzle game, the Rubik’s Cube. The classic 3x3x3 cube is a simple yet brilliant design that can be twisted and turned into a possible 43 quintillion positions (that’s 18 zeros). Have you ever solved it? Have you ever wanted to try solving the Rubik’s Cube? I want to show you how, and why, I got started.

Tips to get you started on how to solve the rubik's cube - a great screen free activity for kids, especially for family travel vacations!

Tips to get you started on how to solve the rubik’s cube – a great screen-free activity for kids, especially for family travel vacations!

I remember the craze of the 80s when the Rubik’s Cube was first sold in North America. It was a hot gift idea and everyone seemed to have one. I was afraid to mix it up for fear that I would never solve it, and so yes, it sat around unsolved. I learned to take it apart and solve it that way, but it was my brother who bought a little guidebook and finally figured the thing out. It seemed too complicated to have to go over pages and pages of diagrams showing you moves for this and that. I suppose that was part of the challenge.

Cubes collected dust throughout America in the years that followed while a quiet community of cubers continued to perfect their techniques. With the dawn of the internet, new methods, competitors, clubs, associations, and tournaments arose. Now cubing, or speedcubing, is a “thing” and has gained popularity, especially amongst middle and high school kids.

At age 45, with an injured foot, unable to enjoy running outdoors, I needed something to pass the time. (I could only handle so much Facebook!) So I finally decided to sit down with my nephew one afternoon and attempt to solve the cube. Maybe it was a bucket-list sort of thing I felt I had to do. I had run my first marathon a year ago, and this seemed like a cool thing to try next under the circumstances.

My 12-year-old nephew is a speedcuber who’s perfecting his algorithms and chasing the world record time. Watch the video below as I solve the cube in 1 minute 15 seconds, then he solves it in 7.42 seconds. (The world record is 5.55 seconds.)   Within a couple hours, my nephew had shown me the moves – the algorithms – while I took notes, and the rest came down to practice and memorization. After a day, I completed my first solo solve in 4 minutes and 8 seconds. I was pretty pumped.

The method I was taught, which also happens to be the method used by world champion Feliks Zemdegs, is called the Fridrich method (commonly referred to as CFOP). There are literally hundreds of videos out there that can walk you through this method, so I won’t go into any detail. But briefly, this method has you complete a cross pattern on the top, then the first two layers, then finish with a variety of memorized algorithms to complete the bottom side and last layer. After a few weeks, I can now solve the cube in about 75 seconds. Getting below a minute takes a variety of finger tricks to move the cube faster, learning new shortcut algorithms, and just lots and lots of practice.

After weeks of me shuffling the cube around, my daughters naturally began to show some curiosity in what I was doing. So I began showing our 10-year-old, Grace, what it was all about. Within a week, she’s able to complete most of it; we’re just now working on the final few algorithms. And for our youngest, Faith, we’re enjoying making patterns like the checkerboard and polka-dots. It’s amazing to me how quickly young kids are able to absorb the spatial skills involved.

Learning to solve the Rubik's Cube is a great family activity!

Learning to solve the Rubik’s Cube is a great family activity!

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To get started, you will of course need a cube! I’ve used a few different ones, all of them made by YJ MoYu out of China, and all are available on Amazon or eBay. They have several different models, colors, and styles ranging from $6 to $16. I personally like the stickerless versions that won’t wear down from use. A basic starter cube is the GuanLong or SuLong. A good middle-range one would be the YuLong. And higher-end models would be the AoLong V2 or HuaLong. In my video, I am using the AoLong V2 stickerless. The world record was set on the affordable DaYan ZhanChi which is light and fast, but I personally prefer the durability and feel of the AoLong V2. In general, the more expensive cubes will have a more solid feel, smoother movements, and less catching. It’s worth the few extra bucks if you intend to improve your solve times.

Cubing is actually a lot of fun! I’ve enjoyed challenging my brain and hand/eye coordination and teaching this “older” dog a new trick. It’s been fun sharing it with my daughters, too. Your kids may enjoy watching some of the videos out there: the world records, different cube tricks, and some crazy new cube designs. Check out the impossible video of someone solving a 17x17x17 cube! Cubing is a great activity that can take you away from a screen and give your mind a good workout. Next to reading a book, I think it’s an especially good activity for a road trip vacation or plane trip.

Have fun cubing!

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Tuesday 12th of May 2015

After reading this I'm ashamed to say the only way I ever solved a Rubiks cube was to peel the stickers off! Lol! Now that I'm old enough to have a little more patience this idea of figuring out how it works sounds interesting, I think my kids would love it too!


Wednesday 13th of May 2015

I hear you Krista! I've never even attempted it because I guess I'm just impatient. :) I've been intrigued to see how it is really just algorithms that you perform based on whatever look is currently happening on the cube. As of last night, my hubby has now taught my daughter to fully solve it. Perfect non-screen activity for trips, although the plastic clicky noise might get unnerving after a while. :)