Students will explore algorithm design by creating oral algorithms, giving instructions for other students to follow to duplicate a model supplied by the teacher. Student-student interaction will foster community and help them analyze the effectiveness of their algorithms.
Materials and Equipment
For the teacher:
Required: plastic interlocking bricks (ex: LEGO®), cards, or tangrams
Before students come to class: Using bricks, cards, tangrams or anything that can be arranged, create simple models to copy using the items; one for every four students.
Activity Overview: In this activity, students will identify the key concepts in algorithm design.
Discussion: Students respond to the following prompt in small or large groups:
Think about brushing your teeth. What steps do you go through each time you brush? How would you give step-by-step instructions to someone about how to brush their teeth?
Activity 1: Algorithmic thinking (20 minutes)
Activity Overview: In this activity, students will use algorithm design to create an ordered series of instructions for solving a problem, and other students will follow the algorithm. Student-student interactions help them build peer-support networks and that foster a student-centered learning community.
Notes to the Teacher:
Refer to the the previously built models for this activity.
Divide students into groups of four and give each group a bag of bricks.
Person 1 may look at everything but may only give directions.
Person 2 and 3 may not look at the model but will build based upon instructions from person 1.
Person 4 will count how many instructions are given until the model is complete and will write down instructions that were helpful or not helpful to the group.
Hand the model to person 1 of each group and set the timer for no more than 5 minutes. Instruct students to copy the given model as accurately as possible.
After the time is up, have students show their completed model, then share with the whole class.
Have person 4 state the number of instructions given (even if the model wasn’t finished).
If you have time and another model, have the students go through a second round.
Q1: What type of instructions worked best?
Q2: Why is this type of activity representative of humans working with computers?
A1: Simple, step-by-step, specific instructions.
A2: Computers can only understand the exact instructions they have been given, even if the instructions are flawed.
CSTA L2.CT.7: Represent data in a variety of ways including text, sounds, pictures and numbers.
UK 3.6: Understand how instructions are stored and executed within a computer system; understand how data of various types (including text, sounds and pictures) can be represented and manipulated digitally, in the form of binary digits.
Additional Information and Resources
For Additional Information
A series of instructions that can be repeated over and over with the same result for a given input (e.g. recipe, computer software, sheet of music notes)