From College Cubing to Coaching - One Teacher’s Journey
College Cubing to Coaching: One Teacher’s Journey
My name is Nate and I started playing around with the Rubik’s Cube when I was a senior in college. I actually stumbled into the whole Cube-craze by accident. My senior year of college, I needed one more class to take to fulfill my credit requirement to graduate. Loving math and being a math major, I decided to take a very elementary-level math course called “Math Explorations.” This class entailed making origami and playing around with the Rubik’s Cube. After learning how to solve the Rubik’s cube in just a few short days, I was hooked. While my classmates were still struggling to understand how the Cube works and attempting to get one-colored cross solved, I was timing myself each solve to improve my time and learning tips and tricks to lower my time. To me, solving the Cube was addicting and fun.
After graduation, I was fortunate to land a job right away in a desirable town near me. The Rubik’s Cube was a big part of me at this point, and I was dying to introduce them to my students. I’m sure that they have all heard, seen, and/or played with a Rubik’s Cube before, but maybe I could show them a different side of it. Maybe I could motivate them to WANT to solve it. Maybe I could show them the mathematical aspects of it that would intrigue them to learn more. That was my goal.
I convinced my PTO to order 2 classroom sets of Rubik’s Cubes through You Can Do The Cube, and it was from that point on that I have been known as the “Cube Guy” in my school. Since I started teaching in September of 2009, I have taught/inspired/motivated/helped over 100 students to completely solve the Rubik’s Cube in under two minutes! In my class, I would give bonus points to any student who could solve the Rubik’s Cube (in front of me) in under two minutes. Once they proved to me that they could do this, I would award them the bonus points, I would take a picture of them and their solved cube, and put that up on my bulletin board titled “Cube Masters” along with a funny little interview for all of my students to see. Seeing students’ names and times up on the “Cube Masters” bulletin board, this would motivate other students to want to learn the Rubik’s Cube! To keep the momentum up, I would allow any “Cube Master” to always try to improve their time as they would be VERY competitive to beat each other’s posted times.
In 2011, I was able to put together a “Cube Team” at my school, entering us into the 1st New England Rubik’s Cube Tournament that was held at the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. The experience was awesome, and ever since then, I have entered a team from my school every year. The interest of Rubik’s Cubes is growing more and more each year. I now have kids coming into my class in September already knowing how to solve the Cube.
Coaching a Cube Team is rather enjoyable. I like to keep the atmosphere very light, comical, and stress-free. Our Cube practices are very easy-going and fun, yet we still get a lot done. The kids that are part of my team love the Rubik’s Cube. They just want to solve the Cubes, talk to their friends about the Cube, race each other, and have fun. If I take the fun away from cubing and our practices, then I wouldn’t have as much interest as I do now.
Our practices usually start off with all eight kids just solving Cubes individually. There is not much direction from me at the beginning and they are free to do what they want. Some kids battle each other, while other kids use the Stack-mat timers to time themselves and try to beat their PB (personal best). After about 5-10 minutes of practicing, we come together as a team and have a little conversation as we mix up our 25 Cubes to get read to practice a team-solve. We talk about everything from their personal best times, to new techniques they have been learning, to possible strategies that we can use during our team-solve. We will then do a couple of team-solves together, putting some of those thought-out strategies to use to see how they turn out. Sometimes we come up with something genius, while other times we come up with total disasters. It’s all part of the learning process.
All the kids that have been on my Cube Teams so far over the years have all been able to fully solve the Rubik’s Cube. I have never had a kid on the team that has not been able to fully solve the Cube, however, I have had some kids fill in at practices in circumstances when a student was unable to make a practice. This was great for the new student because he was able to feel apart of the team, learn a lot from the other kids, and get to participate in what he loved doing. This would ultimately motivate him to keep practicing at home and come back next year faster than ever. At the few practices that he attended, he was able to solve just the first layer and then pass it off to somebody else to finish it up. That actually wasn’t a bad plan and worked out pretty well.
The funny part in all of this is that almost all of my students become faster than me now, and faster than I ever was. My personal best time ever (back in my prime) was about 40 seconds. This past year alone, I had four students on my Cube Team with a consistent average time of under 40 seconds. Two of those four actually posted a time of under 30 seconds consistently. Although I am able to solve the Cube, I know some of the other coaches still struggle with certain parts. Actually, some coaches that I have spoken to at tournaments over the years can’t even solve the Cube by themselves! There’s no shame in that! As you can see, you don’t necessarily have to be able to solve the Cube on your own in order to start up a program!
Each year, I am so impressed and proud of all of my students. They put in so much time and effort into getting better at solving the Rubik’s Cube, and it’s so fun and enjoyable for me to see them in a different light than in the classroom. The smiles on their faces before, during, and after each time we cube, along with all the laughs, makes it all worth it.