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Stuck in the Middle - A way for Mr. Russell to share about the culture of NSMS.

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Stuck in the Middle - A way for Mr. Russell to share about the culture of NSMS.
by Kal Russell - Tuesday, 24 November 2020, 12:57 PM

Stuck in the Middle: Coding is for Kids!

In the early 1980s, I was given a Rubiks' Cube as a present from one of my caring and kind Aunts. I didn't think she was so caring and kind after a couple of weeks of trying to solve this puzzle with amazingly poor results. I could get one side turned to the same colour, but that was it. Eventually, a friend of mine tried to help me. He could make that Rubik's Cube hum as he twisted and turned that cube like a magician. He rotated it like it was a well-oiled machine. My cube seemed always to get stuck, and my flow was awkward and choppy. I was a Rubik's Cube grinder in more ways than one. So eventually, I lost interest without completing the cube and I put the puzzle in an old shoebox as the music from my dad's Kenny Rogers album was ringing in my ears, telling me, "you have to know when to hold them and know when to fold them."    

Several years ago, while visiting family, I noticed a Rubik’s cube on the shelf. I thought I would see if I could complete now that I am older and wiser. I tried for several days and got right to the end before getting frustrated and losing focus again. Yes, I was looking at an internet site with the pattern to follow, but I just couldn't seem to get the last pieces together. I was following the instructions online, but it wasn't working. I got frustrated and folded again. My Rubik’s cube dealing was done.

Last week, I walked into a grade 6/7 classroom working on creating a reverse Rubik's Cube using coloured Unifix cubes. As I walked around the room, the whole class was engaged, so I settled in a chair across from a kind grade 7 student and started asking questions. Slowly we began brainstorming ideas together, and I was once again hopeful that I might be successful in completing this version of the cube. My Growth Mindset was back! I could do it with a little help from my friends.  

We were getting close before we made a minor mistake. We realized that the layering was the key, and we had to pull apart three pieces to fix the cube. We both tried to pull the cube apart, but we both couldn't get a good enough grip on it. I looked for something sharp to pry the pieces off before realizing that we better not have something that sharp sitting around in the open in the classroom.  

Finally, the girl next to us said she could help as she had already completed her puzzle in record time. I just assumed she was listening to our conversation, so we gladly handed her the cube to let her try her luck taking those three pieces off. Then my new partner and I went up to the front of the room to look at the sample cube. We were close, and we knew it. No way was I folding now; I wasn't counting our money while we were sitting at the table yet, but I knew we were on a good run and had a great chance at completing the cube. We talked strategy for placing the last couple of pieces in place and then went back to the desk to work on our cube.  

Our neighbour happily said, "there you go. It is all taken apart for you." She had separated all the pieces, and my dreams of conquering the cube, OK not the real Rubik's Cube, was gone.  

Unfortunately, I had to leave as I had a meeting, but I came back later that day, and my partner happily informed me that she had completed the cube without me. Augh, not again!  


At North Saanich Middle School, you might get an opportunity to learn about some coding and math algorithms by working on a reverse Rubiks' cube in your class. Some of the students will even finish it, but some won't quite get it completed yet.  I am gambling that they will finish before me.   

Go Hawks!