A toy that educates … could it be a dream?
I recently found something that fits that category, educating students in concepts of GEOMETRY.
It’s called the Rubik’s Slide, created by Techno Source. I bought this Rubik’s Slide a few months ago because I needed another puzzle to keep my tutoring clients entertained while I grade their work, which I often do at the start of sessions.
I found the puzzle quite engaging right from the start, and in just a little while I realized that this device can be used to teach students about the geometric transformations of slides (translations) and turns (rotations). Not only that, but it is excellent for teaching students critical thinking skills including the all-important skill of planning ahead to achieve a goal.
Here’s how the product works.
When you hold this electronic device, you are essentially looking at one side of the classic 3×3 Rubik’s cube. You see nine squares, arranged in a tic-tac-toe style grid.
When you turn the product on, some of those nine squares become lit up, red or blue. When you push a special button on the side, the lights change, showing you the goal that you are shooting for. For example, the puzzle might, at the start, show the three bottom squares lit up. But when you press the button, the three bottom squares are no longer lit up; instead the device illuminates three squares along one of the diagonals.
Your job is to make the illuminated squares change from the original position to the goal position. You move toward this goal in six key ways. With deft moves, you alter which of the nine squares are lit up. You you can make the lit up squares change by moving them up, down, left or right. Or, as an added twist, you can rotate the illuminated squares either clockwise or counterclockwise.
The first puzzles you solve are quite simple, and their purpose is to help you understand how the game works. As you progress past those first puzzles, the puzzles become more challenging, and it takes creative thinking to figure out how to move from the set-up position to the goal position. A bit frustrating at times, but always fun.
The manufacturer states that the Rubik’s Slide contains more than 10,000 different puzzles. I have not run the permutations, but that could be possible, for when you get to the puzzle’s higher levels, you’ll see not just one color but several. And the new variety in colors increases the difficulty of the games.
What I like most about the game is that it teaches students the effect of slides and rotations in geometry. For the moves that you make correspond to “slides” and “rotations,” geometrically speaking. Till I got this game, I had not seen anything that demonstrated these transformations quite so dramatically.
Students get quite involved playing this game, for it is electronic, and it has sound effects, too. Sometimes it takes a while to get students to put the device down. But that’s ok. Playing with this puzzle is educational, and it builds critical thinking skills.
Here are a few sites that tell you even more about the Rubik’s Slide, some of which demonstrate how it works with videos.
This site provides a video demonstration by Eric Levin, president of Techno Sources:
WARNING NOTE: after playing with the Rubik’s Slide for many hours, the check button on my device eventually broke. I was quite disappointed until I found that I could buy the same game for my iPod Touch for just 99 cents. Just look through the Apple Store’s App store, and you’ll find a nice version there, if yours suffers the same fate as mine. Or, you might just want to start with the app version; it is less expensive, and it works just as well, just no sound effects.
FINAL NOTE: The author of this blog has taken no money from any company for writing this post (though maybe I should have tried!).