# Question Sheet: Play for Science

SCIENCE

1. Name a game you like to play. What skills do you learn from playing that

game?

2. Do you think playing games is good for people, bad for people, or neither?

1. What is a facelet on the Rubik’s Cube?
2. How many possible arrangements are there for the facelets on a Rubik’s Cube?
3. How did scientists break down the problem of solving the Rubik’s Cube into

smaller problems?

4. Now that scientists have come up with a solution for the Rubik’s Cube, how

might they apply what they’ve learned in other fields?

5. How many possible arrangements are there for the pieces on a checkerboard?
6. How did Schaeffer break down his checkerboard problem into two separate

problems?

7. Why did Schaeffer say, “I’m quite amazed that I had enough patience to stick

with this”?

8. How did both Kunkle and Schaeffer use computers to solve problems?

1. In your own words, explain the differences between trying to win a game of

checkers and trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

2. What do the Rubik’s Cube and a game of checkers have in common?
3. How would Schaeffer and Kunkle work on the same problems if there was no

such thing as a computer? Do you think the work would be possible? If so, how

long would it take?

4. Kunkle believes the “absolute minimum” of moves on a Rubik’s Cube is just

20, not the 26 moves his program worked out. Why might his team still be six

moves short of the perfect solution, even though they used a powerful computer?

5. The researchers who worked on solving checkers and the Rubik’s Cube both

began by limiting the number of possible arrangements. Why might it be useful to

break down a big problem into smaller problems? Could there be limitations to

this type of approach?

6. Think of another game or puzzle, besides checkers or the Rubik’s Cube, that

someone could solve using a computer. How might you break down that problem into

smaller, more manageable questions?

how?

LANGUAGE ARTS

1. Team up with a friend. Imagine that one of you is a journalist for a

magazine and the other is Schaeffer. The journalist should interview the

scientist about his work. Now switch. This time, the journalist should interview

2. What strategies does this article use to keep kids interested in the

story.

MATHEMATICS

1. Out of the 43 quintillion possible arrangements of the Rubik’s Cube, Kunkle

first found a solution for 600,000 special arrangements. What percentage of the

total were these special arrangements? What fraction of the total were they?

2. Likewise, Schaeffer first looked at 39 trillion out of a total of 500

quintillion possible configurations for a checkerboard. What percentage and

fraction of the total did this first round of attempts represent?