November 2016 Monthly Review

Well here it is – I know you’ve all been waiting for this; the Leeds Maths Tuition monthly review for November 2016. It’s been a good month – nothing special but I’ve been having quite a bit of fun. For a start I had to relearn how to solve my Rubik’s Cube – it’s about ten years since I first figured out how to solve the cube and it’s about three years since I last actually bothered to solve it so unsurprisingly I forgot how to do it. Actually it wasn’t all that bad having to re-learn – I really only had to figure out a little bit and then I was away – good old muscle memory!

I’ve also been playing around with my Japanese abacus (soroban) – this also inspired me to learn more about Japanese mathematics so I’ve done a short review of a book called ‘The History of Japanese Mathematics’ by David Eugene Smith; I’ll leave you to guess what it’s about. I mentioned my soroban in last month’s video when I’d dug it out and blown off the cobwebs – I’m really starting to get into it and it’s also got me onto something called Flash Anzan which is a technique for doing mental arithmetic. I’ve started to look into this technique for doing mental arithmetic – it seems to be quite popular in Japan (at least to the point where they have national Flash Anzan championships) but I think it would be really difficult to make it in any way mainstream in the UK.

Well I don’t want to give too much away about what’s in the video – just watch it if you really want to know. There’s nothing in it that will really help you with your studies – that comes in some of my other videos – but it’s just me getting a few things off my chest. I’ll be doing another video next month and who knows what I’ll be talking about. I bet you can’t wait!

John solving the Rubik’s Cube

After re-discovering my Rubik’s cube a few days ago I decided to film myself solving it. I first learned to solve a Rubik’s cube about six years ago but have never actually seen myself solving one – until now.

I first decided to learn how to solve a Rubik’s cube after seeing someone playing with one in the maths department at Warwick University; up until then the Rubik’s cube that I owned had remained unused and unsolved after scrambling it when it first came out of the box and then naturally giving it up as a bad job a couple of days later. Well I started trying to solve the cube again and after a little bit of perseverance I managed to solve part of the cube but not all of it – I needed some help!!

Well now we are blessed with access to a whole range of resources and information on the internet and it only takes a few seconds to Google the phrase ‘Rubik’s cube solution’ and see hundreds if not thousands of web pages that tell you how to solve the cube – which I imagine makes things much easier than when the cube first became popular in the 1980s. It turns out that there’s dozens of different ways of solving the cube, some are faster but more difficult than other more straightforward but slower methods. The method that I ended up learning was a method developed by Lars Petrus, a champion Rubik’s cube solver (apparently); I didn’t make a conscious decision to learn this method over all of the others, I just wanted a way of solving the cube.

A week or so and a lot of practice later thanks to the Petrus method I managed to solve the Rubik’s cube for the very first time. I couldn’t believe it – it took me about 20 minutes from start to finish but I did it. I took the cube everywhere with me and spent hours solving it over and over – eventually getting my fastest solve down to about one minute. I haven’t really got any faster at solving it, in fact I’ve probably got slower at solving it but I love messing around with the Rubik’s cube every now and again.

Some of the fastest “speed-cubers” in the world can solve the cube in less than 10 seconds which is unbelievable – I’m not sure that I’d ever get that good and I’m not really sure if it would really be worth the time and effort but it’s always fun to watch the videos on youtube of the people that can do it; I think if I could get to 45 seconds I’d be quite happy with that. There’s even people that can solve the cube blindfolded, some of them solve the thing blindfolded faster than I can solve it with no blindfold – pretty impressive stuff. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress…