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A New "Twist" in 3rd Grade Math

Washington’s New ‘Twist’ on Grade 3 Math


If you’ve ever played with a Rubik’s Cube, you’re aware of how difficult it can be to create a specific pattern on it. Each twist and turn of the puzzle cube creates a new colored sequence on each of its six sides. Imagine how complicated it was for Washington School’s Grade 3 students to assemble large mosaic portraits using 225 of them!

Looking for ways to engage the children, as well as to bring mathematical concepts to into real-life situations, the teachers in third grade reached out to Rubik’s while they were studying volume. Through the Rubik’s website, the third grade team was able to borrow 225 cubes, paired with a guided, STEM-based curriculum, through the site’s Lending Library. This free resource provided an invaluable hands-on learning for the students, who were actively engaged during the lessons and explorations.

Simply grasping a Rubik's Cube, twisting and turning its various parts, began to help these third-graders grasp important math concepts, including area, perimeter, volume, and right angles. Older students could also benefit from using these puzzles as a resource while exploring algorithms and enumeration. While planning for and creating the mosaics, the children learned life lessons, such as the importance of having a plan, effective student-student communication, as well as trial and error. Additionally, they encountered 21st century skills such as focus, following directions, memorization, sequencing, problem solving, critical thinking, and perseverance.

They began by using a template which showed how to use the 225 cubes to create a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Each student was assigned a various area of the grid and had to use problem-solving skills to match the colors exactly. This was no easy task, but the children’s determination, math skills, and perseverance led them to success.

Wanting to assemble a more personalized and meaningful project, the students decided to use a computer program to create a new grid, using a portrait of Mrs. Schlatter. The final result is a stunning mosaic of their principal, currently on display in the Washington Elementary School Library.

When asked about this experience, the third graders seemed unanimous.

“I think we did an amazing job!” one child proudly stated.

Another chimed in, “I want to be an artist when I grow up. This project taught me that I can use Math to improve my Art skills!”

Do you have what it takes to “do the cube?”




Grade 3 students created  mosaics of Abraham Lincoln and Mrs. Schlatter out of Rubik’s Cubes.



To learn more about creating Rubik’s Cube mosaics or if you are interested in borrowing a class set of cubes to create your own mosaics, visit You Can do the Cube for more information.