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Corona del Mar Today: Former Harbor View teacher creates Rubik's Cube curriculum

April 07, 2012|By Amy Senk
  • Amber Baur taught at Harbor View Elementary School and used the Rubik's Cube as part of her daily classroom activities.
Amber Baur taught at Harbor View Elementary School and… (Amy Senk )

When Amber Baur taught at Harbor View Elementary School, Rubik's Cubes were a daily part of classroom activities.

"Children like their fingers and hands moving," she said. "So I said, 'You are more than welcome to keep your hands moving during lessons, as long as it's with a Rubik's Cube.' My whole class was doing it."

And if you're going to play with the brightly colored cube puzzle, why not solve it — and if you're going to solve it, why not learn math and algebra skills at the same time?

Baur, who left Harbor View two years ago after budget cuts led to teacher layoffs, has written a 354-page curriculum called "How to Solve the Rubik's Cube" that was officially launched in March.

Seven Towns Ltd., worldwide licensor of the Rubik's Cube, contracted with Baur to create the curriculum, which includes eight to 10 lessons with names like "Meeting the Cube" and "The Middle Layer."

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Earlier this year, the California After School Resource Center approved the curriculum — one of just 68 math resources in the center's library. The curriculum also has been featured at the Los Angeles Unified School District's GATE conference and the California Assn. for the Gifted conference.

Baur said she grew up with Rubik's Cubes, which arrived in the United States in her birth year, and that she always appreciated the math concepts behind the solutions.

At Harbor View, she began to use Rubik's Cubes with members of the Math Team.

"I just wanted the Math Team to be working their brains all the time," she said. "Rubik's Cubes were good for problem solving, taking things step by step."

She soon bought a few Rubik's Cubes solution kits that included cubes for her regular classroom students along with a guide to solving the puzzle. By the end of the year, most of her students could solve the cube.

Baur, who is president of the Orange County Math Council, began to talk about adding a Rubik's Cube competition to that group's annual Math Field Day, and she began discussing other cube educational possibilities with a Seven Towns representative.

"Amber was always an excellent resource for questions I had regarding teaching," company representative Susan Seider wrote in an email. "We often discussed that the Solution Guide was an excellent resource but required significant work on the part of a teacher to be able to develop lessons plans to actually solve the cube as opposed to utilizing our free lessons that used the cube as a manipulative."

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