Lessons from the Cube

“A good puzzle, it's a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It's very clear, and the problem depends just on you.” -Ernő Rubik 


Anthony Brooks has it.  "It" is difficult to assess and quantify and goes by many different names. A word that seems to have recenlty gained significant support from the most highly regarded educational researchers is "grit". Stanford professor, Angela Duckworth, a leading voice on the identification and fostering of academic competencies other than fixed intelligence, defines grit as "the perseverance and passion for long-term goals."

Sign Up for E-News

Anthony first picked up a Rubik's Cube six years ago, when he was a fourteen-year-old looking to stay busy on a long bus ride. Today, Anthony holds the world record for solving the Rubik's Cube- less than seven seconds!

Since its mass-market introduction forty years ago, the "Cube" has befuddled and frustrated most of those that try to solve it.  Most of us have held a Cube in our hands, and surely not many of us solve it on our first attempt.  How long was it before you put it down and proclaimed defeat, never to pick it up again?  Or perhaps, not unlike people such as Anthony, you looked at the problem from different points of view, consulted an expert for insight, or did basic research on the internet for solutions.  In reality, we can all solve the Cube by following (and eventually memorizing if you want to solve it quickly) a set of algorithms.  For the "speedcubers" of the world, like Anthony, being able to solve the Cube quickly- and in some cases blindfolded- requires deliberate practice, focus, and an authentic interest in doing it.


The Rubik's Cube was the central focus of a recent science class activity at our school.  Two seventh grade students in Dr. Steneken's class were going to race each other; the winner being the first to solve a scrambled cube.  However, this competition was unusual in that one of the participants was not actually human, but a student-designed Lego robot.  I recall the winner solved the cube in less than thirty seconds- very impressive.  In my mind, it didn't matter if the winner was the student using his own hands, or the student who used a robot that he built. It was clear that both students had engaged in hours of preparation and practice to solve the problem.  I am sure they both encountered frustrations, obstacles and failure along the way.  Despite the difficulty, they persevered- and I assure you that for each of them this is only the beginning.  Through this process they have demonstrated to me, and to themselves, that they possess the grit that is required to achieve true academic success; that they know what it will take to solve all forms of puzzles and problems.

As a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Education myself, I am very familiar with the work of GSE graduate and professor, Angela Duckworth.  Having been an administrator in the middle school environment for the better part of a decade, I fully support her position that the ability to learn is not fixed, but that this can change with effort.  Having this "growth" mindset, allows for success in all endeavors- whether we are solving a forty year-old puzzle, building robots, or growing as learners and leaders.  Duckworth summarizes the importance of grit in this TED talk:

I believe that it is the role of  parents, teachers, administrators- to foster in our children the grittiness that Professor Duckworth references. We owe them this.  The best way to teach is to encourage and model.  So go find that cube, and give it another shot- you can do it, but you might fail (a lot) before you succeed.

Related Resources:

Solving The Cube

The Cube's 40th Anniversary Celebration in Times Square

New York Times Profile on the Resurgence of the Rubik's Cube

Liberty Science Center's Rubik's Cube Exhibit

Professor Duckworth's Study on Grit

An Interview with Professor Duckworth (Educational Leadership, 2013)



Doug Layman is entering his fourth year as principal of Sparta Middle School.  He was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and he vividly remembers his days at Valley Forge Middle School.  Mr. Layman resides in Sparta and enjoys taking advantage of the many outdoor pursuits and activities that make Sparta a great place to work and live.  

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Sparta Police: Stop for Broken Light Ends with DWI for Newton Man

February 17, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – A Newton man caught the attention of Sparta Cpl Rubino when he drove passed him on West Shore Trail with a broken license plate light.  Alexis Obolensky was stopped in his gold Subaru on February 15 around 7:45 p.m., police report.

When the officer was stopping the 28-year-old driver he saw him flick a cigarette out the window.  As Rubino spoke with him he smelled ...

Sparta Police Nab Two on Outstanding Warrants

SPARTA,NJ – Several people with active warrants were picked up by Sparta Police this week. On February 12 around noon, Sparta Police Officer Christopher Favaro stopped Newark resident Alex Nunes-Ramalho, 23, for broken break lights on his gold Chevy Impala. 

 Nunes-Ramalho told Favaro that he did not have his wallet with him.  Instead, the driver showed the officer a ...

Sparta Police: Marijuana Card is Not a Free Pass for NY Man

SPARTA, NJ – A man speeding on Route 15 faces drug charges despite having a medical marijuana card.  Muhammad Khan, 26, of Valley Stream, New York was stopped by Police Officer Erick Finley driving his red Lexus SUV 75 mph in a 55 mph zone, police report.

When the officer spoke with the driver and passenger Abubaker Masood, 29 of West Islip, New York, the officer smelled raw ...

Upcoming Events


Tue, February 20, 6:30 PM

Sparta United Methodist Church, Sparta

Girl Scout STEAM Program

Arts & Entertainment Education

Sat, February 24, 7:00 PM

The Prudential Center, Newark

Sparta Education Foundation Night Out with the NJ ...

Giving Back Sports


Tue, February 27, 6:30 PM

Sparta United Methodist Church, Sparta

Girl Scout STEAM Program

Arts & Entertainment Education


Fri, March 2, 7:00 PM

Wallkill Valley Regional High School, Hamburg

The Drowsy Chaperone

Arts & Entertainment


Sat, March 3, 7:00 AM

First United Methodist Church, Newton

Newton Rotary Pancake Breakfast

Food & Drink

One Injured in Two-Family House Fire in Newton

February 6, 2018

NEWTON, NJ—One man was injured, while three others escaped unharmed when a two-family two story apartment house caught fire on Saturday.  On January 27 at around 6:26 a.m. Newton Police received a 9-1-1 call from a passerby reporting a house on fire. Patrols immediately responded to the area and found a structure fire at 75 Trinity Street police report..

According to Police, ...

Paterson's Poet Laureate

February 13, 2018

PATERSON, NJ- The City of Paterson has given birth to famous athletes, business leaders, actors, and now, a poet laureate.

Born and raised in Paterson, Talena Lachelle Queen told TAPinto Paterson that she has been writing since she was five-years old, and, as she grew older, realized that when it came to pursuing studies and a career in writing, she “didn’t have a choice.” ...

How to Talk with Kids About the Florida Shooting

February 15, 2018

The tragedy of the Florida school shooting is devastating, leaving 17 killed and 15 injured. Our children can easily identify with what occurred yesterday. It will be the topic of conversation today in schools everywhere. School administrators are doing all they can to provide support and guidance. The shootings affect children, teachers, and school personnel. The school shooting ...

Does Marriage or Mortgage Come First?

According to the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers, married couples once again dominated the first-time homebuyer statistics in 2017 at 57% of all buyers. Team Nest Builder knows it's no surprise that having two incomes to save for down payments and contribute to monthly housing costs makes buying a home more ...

Very Hot Tea Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers in China studying the consumption of “burning” hot tea, alcohol, and smoking habits of greater than 450,000 people ages 30 –79 for more than nine years found a five time greater risk of esophageal cancer in those who engaged in all three of the behaviors and a two time greater risk in those who either smoked or drank alcohol and consumed burning hot tea as compared ...


AtlantiCast Medical Minute: Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center

On this episode of the AtlantiCast Medical Minute, we’ll take you inside the Atlantic Orthopedic Institute’s Scoliosis and Spinal Deformity Center, with the center’s director, Jason Lowenstein, MD.

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M7euCp86-c

AtlantiCast Episode 011

Breaking Atlantic Health System news on this week’s AtlantiCast! Plus, find out why Morristown Medical Center is one of the best hospitals in the nation when it comes to recovering from joint surgery, see the newest center for fighting brain cancer and an Atlantic Health System red-carpet premiere!


Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders February 14 2018 Meeting Video

NEWTON, NJ - Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders February 14 2018 Meeting Video 


Coalition for Health and Safe Communities to Host Workshop for Community Pharmacists

February 16, 2018

NEWTON, NJ—A Pharmacist Workshop will be hosted by the Coalition for Healthy and Safe Communities, a program of Center for Prevention on Sunday, February 25.

The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. with registration starting at 5:30 p.m. It will be held at the Center for Prevention on Newton Sparta Road. 

This workshop will provide pharmacists with a Narcan training along with ...