The Puzzling Impact of Ernő Rubik

For the past eight months there has been a constant click heard in my home. At the dinner table, while driving in the car, and even late at night when I am beginning to drift off to sleep, I can hear the subtle sounds of my son cubing. Cubing has become one of his passion projects and he spends every waking moment with a puzzle in his hands.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netI had given him a traditional Rubik’s Cube a few years ago for Christmas but once it was scrambled, it sat in the corner of his bookshelf collecting dust. That was until he stumbled upon a recommended video on his YouTube feed of Collin Burns’ 5.25 world record solve. That was all it took. He was hooked.

As it is always in his hand, he gains a lot of attention and notoriety. He is now recognized around our community as the fastest cuber. Kids and adults alike bring him cubes that they “messed up” for him to solve.

His best solve time for the 3×3 is presently 7.22 seconds. He averages 13.09. Yet the 3×3 is not the only puzzle he enjoys. He also competes in 2×2, 4×4, 5×5, Megaminx, Pyraminx, and Skewb.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netBiography

Ernő Rubik was born during World War II in Budapest, Hungary on the 13th of July 1944. His father, Ernő Rubik Sr., was a flight engineer at the Esztergom aircraft factory and a highly respected engineer of gliders. His mother, Magdolna Szántó, was a poet.

While Rubik has stated in almost every interview that he got his inspiration from his father, he also considers university and the education it afforded him as the decisive event which shaped his life. From 1958 to 1962, Rubik specialised in sculpture at the Secondary School of Fine and Applied Arts and later attended the Budapest University of Technology where he became a member of the faculty upon graduation.

“Schools offered me the opportunity to acquire knowledge of subjects or rather crafts that need a lot of practice, persistence and diligence with the direction of a mentor.”

In the 1970s, Rubik was a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts. It was during this time that he invented the Rubik’s Cube. The cube was originally designed to help Mr. Rubik explain spatial relationship to a class that he taught at the time. He soon realized the potential of the cube and began to get the cube mass produced, applying for a patent in 1975.

It was quickly a huge success. The cube was originally called ‘Magic Cube’ but after some discussion the name was changed to what it is known for today, Rubik’s Cube. In an interview with CNN, Rubik stated;

Space always intrigued me, with its incredibly rich possibilities, space alteration by (architectural) objects, objects’ transformation in space (sculpture, design), movement in space and in time, their correlation, their repercussion on mankind, the relation between man and space, the object and time. I think the CUBE arose from this interest, from this search for expression and for this always more increased acuteness of these thoughts…

In the nearly forty years the cube has been around, over three hundred and fifty million copies have been produced. Yet, only about 1.25% of the people who have purchased the cube can actually solve it.

The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netErnő Rubik witnessed his creation blow up around the world. The cube became the Toy of the Year twice in a row, and the first world championship for The Rubik’s Cube was in 1982. At this competition the first world record was set at 22.95 seconds. Nowadays that is what most cubers average.

Today, there are a variety of speed cubes available on the market. Each is designed to turn faster and more efficiently without the lockups or pops that speed cubers abhor. The current 3×3 record is 4.737 seconds held by a 19 year old from Australia, Feliks Zemdegs.

Bring it Home

Learn to solve the original 3×3 puzzle using online tutorials; there are many to choose from.

Challenge yourself to get faster or learn to solve another puzzle type.

Visit the World Cube Association and find a competition near you to see what it is all about.

Science Milestones

Visit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.

The bloggers of the iHomeschool Network have teamed up to create fun and original unit studies on fascinating people who were born in July.

How Imaginary Numbers Led Us to Dual Enrollment

Over the past couple of years, Geneva has been struggling with math, a subject she has always enjoyed. She was working through Advanced Algebra with Life of Fred and despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t help her when she got stuck.

To be honest, I don’t recall ever learning about imaginary numbers and I just couldn’t grasp it. I was frustrated and she began to lose her confidence.

An imaginary number is a complex number that can be written as a real number multiplied by the imaginary unit i, which is defined by its property i2 = −1. The square of an imaginary number bi is −b2. For example, 5i is an imaginary number, and its square is −25.

Can you explain this in simple terms? Fortunately, we discovered Mr. D Math in the spring and through his weekly instruction, her confidence and enthusiasm were restored.


As the new school year approached we contemplated continuing with Mr. D but when her girlfriend shared that she would begin dual enrollment coursework at the local community college, Geneva opted to do the same. She thereby took the math placement exam in August with no preparation whatsoever and even taking the summer off (our first “true” summer vacation).

She placed into Algebra 1 (Math 60) – just where I would have predicted based on what I knew of her skills. The way the course was designed, she would be working with a software program called ALEKS at her own pace. Her instructor informed her that if she completed the coursework and passed the final exam by midterm, she could then begin the next class, Algebra 2 (Math 65).

At the close of the term, she will have finished two consecutive math courses. Delightfully, as she completed them both within the 10-week term, we will only have to pay for one and yet both will appear on her transcript.

Our dual enrollment experience has {thus far} been very successful. Join me again on Saturday when I share a peak into our 4-year high school forecasting.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.

Life of Fred: Math Curricula for Middle & High School

As a homeschool parent, I want to challenge my children. I want to provide them with opportunities not available to students in brick-and-mortar schools. I spent a lot of time researching and seeking out course work and math curricula that was engaging and challenging.

Years ago, a homeschool colleague shared with me that her 14 year old daughter had taken the college placement exam and had enrolled in Math 111. I immediately wanted to know what math curricula she had used. “Life of Fred,” she replied. “Chloe worked through the Pre-Algebra series and Beginning Algebra on her own.” 

math curricula review

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which generate commissions when you purchase through that link.

Each Life of Fred text is written in the style of a novel with a humorous story line. This was very appealing to my oldest, an avid reader. Each section tells part of the life of Fred Gauss,  a five year old who teaches math at KITTENS University in Kansas.  The story shares how, in the course of his life, Fred encounters the need for the math and then learns the methods.

As she progressed through the books, she gradually transitioned away from direct instruction whereby I was teaching concepts to her and began to rely more on her own reading. She became an independent learner.

Never again hear the question which many math students proclaim: “When are we ever gonna use this stuff?” or “Math is boring!”

Life of Fred makes this possible not only through story but with tons of solved examples. Each hardcover textbook contains ALL of the material – more than most instructors cover in traditional classroom settings.

We meet with Fred daily and have really enjoyed his adventures. I thought I’d share our experience with Life of Fred since people often have a lot of questions about it.

What I Love About Life of Fred Math Curricula

I love the story nature of the text and real life problem approach. Fred encounters a need for the math and then uses it, usually within the context of a humorous situation.

It encourages a different approach to attacking a problem. Students are encouraged to think.

Less drill and more complex problems. This lessens boredom and fatigue and leads to increased accuracy.

The texts are non-consumable; I can use them with both kids. I’ve never been a fan of workbooks; I love that they work out the problems on ordinary notebook paper.

The cost is budget friendly. The middle school texts are just $17 and the high school texts start at just $28 at Educents. You can’t go wrong even if you just wanted to try it out.


math curriculaLife of Fred Math Curricula for Middle School 

My kiddos had completed the Singapore Math curricula series for elementary and middle school, so this is where we actually started. They were immediately hooked on Fred’s story and have loved to read about his humorous antics.

Once you know:

  • the addition tables
  • the subtraction tables
  • the multiplication tables
  • long division

… you are ready to start Life of Fred Fractions, the first book in the Pre-Algebra series.

Who is it for? 5th – 9th grades

Concepts covered: Savings and Expenses, Sectors, Comparing & Reducing Fractions, Roman Numerals, Least Common Multiples, Improper Fractions, Commutative Law, Decimals, Functions and Inverse Functions, Pi, Sets and Subsets, Union and Intersection of Sets, Rules of Divisibility, Bar Graphs & Pie Charts, Prime and Composite Numbers, Consecutive Numbers, the Goldbach Conjecture, Conversion between Percents/ Fractions/ Decimals, Square Roots, Ratio, Ordered Pairs, Negative Numbers, Elapsed Time, Probability, and more!

Titles in this series:  Fractions, Decimals & Percents, Pre-Algebra with Physics, Pre-Algebra with Biology, Pre-Algebra with Economics

Buy Now

LifeofFred Math Curricula

Life of Fred Math Curricula for High School 

My kiddos were already familiar with Fred’s style and approach to problem solving as they had previously completed the Pre-Algebra series.  They loved that they weren’t required to do a bunch of drill-and-kill problems. When they struggled with a concept, they simply re-read the chapter.

My daughter is currently using the Advanced Algebra text. When she was about mid-way through the text, she actually made the decision herself to begin it again. We had been doing a lot of traveling and she hadn’t been going through the lessons regularly. Repeating the textbook helped to clarify the concepts that were previously foggy for her or that she didn’t recall from earlier readings.

If you …

  • have finished the Life of Fred Pre-Algebra books
  • have used another algebra program
  • have used Saxon Math Algebra 1 and/or 2

… you are ready to start the first book in the high school series, Beginning Algebra.

Concepts covered: Division by Zero, Venn Diagrams, Cramer’s Rule, Inequalities, Imaginary Numbers, Variation, Laws of Exponents, Four-dimensional Geometry, Non-Euclidean Geometry, Sines, Cosines and Tangents, Conditional Trig Equations, Functions of Two Angles, and much more!

Titles in this series:  Zillions of Practice Problems: Beginning Algebra

Buy Now


Build Confidence and Success with Mr. D Math

I can not begin to tell you how much we LOVE Mr. D Math. It has made a world of difference to my daughter as she has begun to tackle the tough advanced algebra concepts.

I received access to these online math courses and I was compensated for my time in writing this post. All opinions are my own.
Confidence & Success with Mr D Math

We had been using Life of Fred since she completed the elementary math concepts presented in Singapore Math. The self-directed approach has been very good for her and until recently, it has been all she has needed. She has begun to struggle with some of the concepts, however, and I have been unable to help her.

Now that we have discovered Mr. D Math, I am confidant that she can continue to work at her pace and find the support and guidance she needs to be successful.

Mr. D Math Algebra I and II

When we began the course material, I enrolled her in the Algebra II course presuming that this would be a good match for her based on the work she had previously completed. As she got underway with the live class after the holiday break however, we discovered that though some of the material was familiar to her, there were some concepts with which she struggled.

I was very pleased that Mr. D reached out to us after class and shared that she would be better suited for the Algebra 1 course. It was clear to me that he had spent time with her in the live session and was able to assess her skills. He was gentle and encouraging, explaining that it is more important to learn the material than to just move on.

We thereby made the switch to Algebra 1 the following week and she was much more comfortable. Jumping in mid-year, she was able to catch on immediately.

Confidence & Success with Mr D Math @EvaVarga.netBenefits of a Mr. D Math Online Course 

Mr. D Math offers two options for each of the online courses: 1) Online Curriculum + Live Classes, or 2) Online Curriculum only. The online classroom and lesson materials are easy to access and require very little preparation.

My daughter likes to print the course work each week and to work through the problems as she watches the corresponding video. Thereafter, she checks her work with the solutions guide. “I really like that every problem is worked out clearly. If I make a mistake, I can see where I went wrong and it helps me improve.”

She really enjoyed the weekly live class and felt it was a key component that she had been missing previously. She was able to ask questions – especially important when parents struggle with this level of math – and work through the trouble spots with guidance.

Most importantly, Mr. D has an excellent rapport with the students and learned their names very quickly. When students answer questions in the live class, only the teacher sees the student answers so there is no risk of a timid student feeling like others are watching her.

My daughter is able to maintain the same level of independence with her work as she has come to enjoy and her confidence is growing knowing that she can reach out to Mr. D if necessary. I highly recommend the online courses from Mr. D Math.

Mr. D Math Curricula 

I encourage you to check out all that Mr. D Math has to offer.  Classes range from Pre-Algebra up through Pre-Calculus, as well as SAT and ACT test prep courses.  Extra help sessions are available, as well as emailing questions to Mr. D throughout the week.  Take some time to browse the site to discover all the math and test preparation courses available.

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Engage Kids in Computer Programming with Fischertechnik

I received this product in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

computerprogrammingWhy limit your child’s exposure to computer programming to just a single hour annually?  Fischertechnik provides the materials and curriculum support to engage students in basic computer programming skills year round. 

Last month I shared how excited we were to discover the Introduction to STEM I Kit in my post Play and Learn with Fischertechnik. We have since spent weeks building the various models and discovering how everyday technology and simple machines actually work.

How Does It Work In Our Homeschool?

When the Introduction to STEM I & II Kits arrived at our home, we immediately opened all of the materials and of course Jeffrey was SO excited to just BUILD something. I let him experiment with all of the pieces for a few weeks and he built model after model. It wasn’t long before the models he was building caught the attention of his older sister. She wanted in on the fun as well.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we sat down with our cousins (the more the merrier!) and installed the software. This was as easy as putting the disc in the computer.

I promise.

programfischertechnikComputer Programming with Fischertechnik

The girls jumped right in and immediately began to CONSTRUCT a merry-go-round model without any problems. The instructions took them through the process step by step. The process is very achievable for this age level.

They then spent a little time with the software and soon figured out the basic PROGRAM to get the wheel to operate a series of simple commands. The ROBO Pro light software programming is drag and drop, so it’s very easy to learn! A sample is given on screen as well as in the accompanying guide book.

After the model had been built, it was time to CONTEMPLATE why things worked they way they did and for further experimentation. Once the girls were familiar with what each of the different buttons did, they were ready to begin experimenting in all kinds of ways.The curriculum guide provides suggestions for assessment questions to aide students in reflecting on the process.

Finally, students are invited to CONTINUE their learning with more experimentation and a challenge to build and program more complex models and interactions.  My daughter is now motivated to learn MORE.

The Introduction to STEM II kit allows elementary classrooms of different ages to enter the exciting world of STEM and learn the basic skills of computer programming – an exciting activity for young people. 

fischertechnikMaking the Investment in Fischertechnik

If your child is interested in engineering and computer programming, I strongly suggest you invest in Fischertechnik products.

While the cost may at first seem high (the kits begin at $99), you receive a versatile set of bricks, sensors, motors, and a USB connection, along with the software and teacher’s guide. This enables your student to build the 12 models, but from there the creativity is LIMITLESS.

The Introduction to STEM I kit contains 500 pieces with instructions for building 40 different models in all. Students can build a centrifugal governor, manual transmission, block and tackle, wind turbine, a beam balance, and so much more.

The Introduction to STEM II contains 200 additional fischertechnik parts, including:

  • ROBO LT Controller (USB interface/USB power supply)
  • ROBO PRO Light software
  • An XS motor
  • 2 lights
  • A lens tip lamp
  • Photo-transistor
  • 2 switches

Of course, my kids love the models they have made with the instructions, but they also loves to be creative. They have now begun experimenting with the variety of components.

The beauty of this is that they are thinking through problems and solutions; asking good questions. Skills that will serve them later in life.

Interested? Order a free sample activity kit today!