# Question Sheet: Play for Science

**SCIENCE**

Before reading:

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

- Do you think playing games is good for people, bad for people, or neither?
Explain your reasoning.

During reading:

- What is a facelet on the Rubik’s Cube?
- How many possible arrangements are there for the facelets on a Rubik’s Cube?
- How did scientists break down the problem of solving the Rubik’s Cube into
smaller problems?

- 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?

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

- Why did Schaeffer say, “I’m quite amazed that I had enough patience to stick
with this”?

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

After reading:

- In your own words, explain the differences between trying to win a game of
checkers and trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

- What do the Rubik’s Cube and a game of checkers have in common?
- 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?

- 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?

- 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?

- 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?

- Did this article change the way you think about games and puzzles? If so,
how?

**LANGUAGE ARTS**

- 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

Kunkle about his work.

- What strategies does this article use to keep kids interested in the
subject? Find two examples where the author tries to make kids care about this

story.

**MATHEMATICS**

- 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?

- 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?