Education, Fun Friday, Games

The Rubik’s Cube Revolution

I have a private magazine on Flipboard where I save all of the weird things that might make future Phun Phriday posts.  When I see a few that seem to fit a theme, I curate them for you.  They are not necessarily educational – just random stories that catch my eye.

It’s a mystery to me why the Rubik’s Cube continues to be a “thing.”  I didn’t like it when it first came out, and still find it frustrating.  I realize this is completely my own fault, and that my feelings say a lot more about my own stubborn laziness than the quality of the toy.  But that’s why I found it interesting to see that, decades after its initial introduction to the toy market, the Rubik’s Cube continues to fascinate people.

This guy, for example, has posted a tutorial on Instructables on how to make a fully functional Rubik’s Cube – out of paper.  I was intimidated by Step 1, so I can’t really advise you if this actually works, but it seems on the up and up.

Then there’s this man, who made a Rubik’s cube out of cheese.  This achievement should not be confused with his other Rubik’s cube accomplishments: the candle cube and the ice cube.

I doubt either of these men would be willing to loan their creations to this robot, who can solve a Rubik’s cube in .38 seconds.  (Watch the last video on this page, and you’ll see why they might be reluctant to trust their art to this robot.)

I think I’ll just stick to the virtual ones.

image from William Warby on Flickr
Education, Fun Friday, Geography

Mind-Blowing Maps

For this week’s Phun Phriday, we have a collection of unusual maps that you probably won’t find in any atlas.  Don’t worry; these aren’t election maps (they are far more interesting, in my opinion).

First of all, head on over to this article on Thrillest to find out the favorite television shows in each of the United States.  Some are not so surprising, but others definitely seem a bit incongruous.

Maybe the t.v. shows have some connection to the most distinctive last name in each state?  Or maybe not.  Jensen seems poised to take over the country, so someone should definitely do some research on that particular trend.

I know this blog has readers all over the world, so I apologize that the first two maps are America-centric.  Rest assured that this last resource covers anyone as it speculates what would happen if we put the entire population of the world into one city.

Yes, you read that correctly.

People really think of the most interesting ways to visualize maps…

Lego Micro World Map
Lego Micro World Map
Education, Fun Friday, Games

Mental Floss Quizzes

For this week’s Phun Phriday post, I want to call your attention to the Mental Floss Quizzes page.  Some people may not label taking a quiz as particularly fun, but I enjoy stressing myself over these quick brain challenges.  My latest obsession is “Finish the Country Names,” which I still haven’t managed to complete.  Despite the efforts of my extremely demanding college geography professors, there are still apparently some countries that I’ve never heard of (Burkina Faso?) or can’t spell (Bosnia Herzegovina).  Right now I’m at 35/48, but I’m determined to get all of them! This is my way of challenging my growth mindset…

Not yet...
Not yet…
Creative Thinking, Education, Fun Friday

Bring on the Dementors!

So, apparently the thing that I’ve been missing in my life is a patronus.  Without one, it takes no time at all for the ever-increasing numbers of Dementors (otherwise known as “standardized testing companies”) to gorge on all of your happiness – leaving you in complete despair.  A patronus can save you from this misery.

Not being a fictional wizard in a Harry Potter novel, I had no inkling I even have a patronus.  But the lack of one pretty much explains the last forty years of my life.

Thanks to the newest quiz on Pottermore, however, I have identified my patronus, a white stallion, who I intend to summon the next time the Dementors threaten to sabotage my incredibly joyful personality and/or the next time I get stuck in traffic which, come to think of it, would be a particularly efficient use of my patronus as both a warder-offer and a better method of transportation…

See what your patronus is and share in the comments below!

white stallion

3-12, Apps, Education, Fun Friday, Games

Piano Tiles

Piano Tiles (Don’t Tap the White Tile) is a free app, available on iTunes and Google Play.  The name of the game is pretty self-explanatory.  As black and white tiles fall down the screen, your job is to tap the black tiles only.  The black tiles will make the sounds of music notes as you tap them.  The faster you can play without hitting a white tile, the better.  I’d never heard of the game until I saw this article in one of my Flipboard magazines, featuring a pretty amazing setup invented to “beat” the game like no human would ever be able to do.  To be perfectly honest, the video pretty much discouraged me from ever even trying to play the game – at least not until I get some bionic eyes and fingers.

screen shot from Piano Tiles app
screen shot from Piano Tiles app
3-12, Education, Fun Friday, Games, Problem Solving

Stratos Spheres by Thinkfun

When I first opened the Stratos Spheres game from Thinkfun, I didn’t get it.  24 yellow and blue spheres tumbled out along with a white one.  It looked kind of boring, to be honest – which was surprising to me considering the source.  I’ve reviewed many Thinkfun games and none of them have been boring.  I was a little worried that I would even find someone to try this two-player game out with me.

Two enthusiastic third-graders who visit my classroom every Friday before school had no problem giving the game a try.  At first, they weren’t even interested in the game; they just wanted to build with the spheres.  They were completely entertained by using their imaginations with the pieces, and might have played like that for 30 minutes if I hadn’t suggested playing the actual game.

Stratos Spheres is similar to Connect 4 in that you are trying to get 4 of your color in a row, and the other player can block you with his or her color.  However, Stratos Spheres “rows” are 3-dimensional.  This gives you more choices for building your row of 4, which can also be diagonal.  Play starts with one player connecting a colored piece to the white sphere, and alternates back and forth until someone creates a row or you both run out of spheres.

Stratos Spheres by Thinkfun
Stratos Spheres by Thinkfun

The spheres have connectors on their sides that can also be used to block.  Players cannot remove a sphere once it is placed, which means that a perfect spot for your piece might be blocked by a piece by a connector.  This can be frustrating, but can also be used to your advantage.

Winning is tricky.  Sometimes you can win without even knowing it. One of my students was examining the connected spheres from every angle to decide his next play when someone pointed out to him that his opponent had already won.  He’s not the only one this has happened to, apparently, as you can see in this video review of the game from “Dad Does.”

I am terrible at this game.  My fourth graders easily beat me.  This, of course, made me want to play even more – because I needed to earn back my street cred.  However, we had some actual academic work that needed to be completed, so we haven’t had a chance, yet, for the number of re-matches it will take for me to improve.

Stratos Spheres is only $9.99, which is pretty good for a game that is light and can easily be transported in the supplied bag.  Road trips or plane flights might be more palatable for kids 8 and up with this game to keep them occupied.

For more game recommendations, including several from Thinkfun, check out this Pinterest Board.  With summer just around the corner, you’re probably going to want to stock up!

Full Disclosure – I received a free copy of this game from Thinkfun to review.  However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.