Unifix Cubes

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela

"You change the world by being yourself." -Yoko Ono

^ They come in a gorgeous rainbow and snap together with surprising satisfaction. 

It was 2004, give or take, that I packed them up and put them away.

Our collection of Unifix cubes. 

After more than a decade in the hands of my daughters as we played games and made patterns, all four of them had mastered the basics of mathematical thinking and no longer needed these old friends. 

^ Sold in packages of 100, a full set gives you ten stacks of ten cubes. 
Sadly, some members of our original set have gone missing. 

I don't know why I didn't them away to a younger homeschooling family or even donated them to the math lab at our school-for-homeschoolers, as I did with our other collections of math manipulatives. But for reasons that I still cannot quite articulate, I decided to keep them. 

Perhaps I thought I was saving them for my future grandchildren's homeschooling years, though I knew even then that there were no guarantees that my daughters would eventually have children, let alone decide to homeschool them. And I certainly had no inkling that I'd ever find myself teaching math to anyone besides my daughters and their friends. 

^ Others have suffered a different fate. What can I say, our first dog, Casey, was a chewer. 

Still, the fact remains that some quiet voice inside my head whispered, "Keep them." And for all these years, through countless decluttering purges, I have obeyed. 

Fast forward to last month. 

With no warning, a new student appeared in my life. Though his natural math sense is strong, he grew up in chaos and his ability to keep up with math lessons at school suffered very early on. Now near the end of his high school career, my challenge is to help him lay aside his old perceptions of failure and ignorance, and discover the beautiful fundamentals of math.

^ Thankfully, it was easy enough to find more so I decided to invest in a second set.

And in an instant, I understood that for the past 18 years, waiting for just this moment and this exact student to come into my life with his unusual and very specific needs, I'd been holding on to the perfect teaching tool.

My collection of Unifix cubes. 

^ And now my bowl of Unifix cubes overflows. 

Over the past few Tuesdays and Thursdays, my student and I sit with these Unifix cubes, playing games and making patterns to help him master the basics of mathematical thinking. Someday soon, we hope that his sister, who is currently lost in the mad chaos that is Mariupol, Ukraine, will join us and master her own mathematical thoughts . 

With my collection of Unifix cubes, I hope to change the world.