From Rubik’s Cube to Textile Arts: Motivating Students in Abstract Algebra 


 Thomas Hoffman 

3 November 2023

Many undergraduate students find Abstract Algebra a difficult subject to grasp. For most, the motivation of earning a passing grade is not enough to spark an interest in the subject – they need an engaging entry point. Puzzle toys like the Rubik’s Cube, Hoberman’s Brain Twist and the 15-puzzle have a lot of underlying symmetries to explore using group theory. As teachers, we can bring these toys into the learning space to teach the underlying algebraic concepts. Recently, I added bobbin lace weaving, with its stable symmetries, to my algebraic toolbox. In this talk, we’ll explore my experience using the tools to help students find the beauty in algebra.