Eleven-year-old William Mlekush almost apologized when asked to solve a Rubik’s Cube that is five rows across by five rows deep, although it wasn’t because the puzzle was too hard for him.
"It’s going to take a little while because it (the cube) doesn’t turn very well,” said the fifth grader at Dove Science Academy Elementary School in Oklahoma City, as he spinned the cube’s squares into place one row at a time.
As he worked one cube, fellow members of the GT (Gifted and Talented) Rubik’s Cube Club at the school quickly solved their own versions of the Rubik’s Cube, which included the basic square cube as well as some of the students’ own creations that they call names such as the "Siamese” and the "Cutter” cubes.
"We started modifying it because it (the basic Cube) was not enough for us,” said Ergin Bostanci, Dove’s dean of students and math teacher, who is taking his students on all kinds of Rubik’s Cube adventures to help them learn math skills while they’re having fun. "They got bored. They were looking for a challenge.”
A "cutter cube” has the middle squares turned sideways so they stick out like a pyramid, adding a new dimension to the problem solving. A Siamese cube combines two Rubik’s Cubes into one, but it staggers the rows slightly, so it’s not an even rectangle. Another one, the 3X3X5, is three rows on top and sideways, but five rows deep.
Designing and creating the alternative shapes were the students’ homework assignments. They required using different algorithms to solve than the basic Cube, Bostanci said.
"I like the ones that go out of shape,” Bostanci said.
Dove is one of several schools in Oklahoma using an educational kit from the "You CAN Do the Rubik’s Cube Initiative,” which has put together a Rubik’s Cube curriculum for math programs at schools.