Month: April 2019

As easy as 0,1,2,3…

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The aim of this activity is for pupils to explore how a new counting system might work and how our number system works. This is great prep for introducing binary, base 2 or other bases.

The tally system

First explore the tally counting system, pupils could be given counters, some things to count.

Then on to counting to 10 using both hands and counting to 12 and 60 using one hand, make links with 12hrs, 60 minutes.. examples here.

Then look at the symbols used for numbers, line for tally, digit one etc.

Ask question such as what happens in tally when you get to 4 and you add one more (5)? What happens when you get to 9 in out number system? Model by counting up how our denery system works. Do so using a grid. Show the purpose of a zero.

Example of using a grid.

The main part of this activity is giving pupils a piece of paper and a pencil and creating their own number system and symbols for each number

jump the frogs

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This activity is explained in further detail here ( and an on-line simulator) This works well, its a problem solving and pattern recognition activity. It will take most students some time to work this out, pupils that work this out should either assist others or start writing down the instructions to complete this problem for n frogs, that is 3 either side or 3 billion, the same method should work. Point them towards starting with one frog each side and then building up to 2, 3, 4 …Also, they should work out the maths to work out the minimum number of moves for n frogs. Explanation of the maths is here

jumping frogs

sending data

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classroom lights out to darken the room, an on-line metronome.

Give a torch to one pupil and set them far apart. The rest of the class will be asked to decode the message as well. The aim is to transmit a character successfully from pupil A to B (use Unicode or subset ASCII) At every metronome beat the torch is either on or off. For example, if the pattern “111” was to be transmitted the torch can stay on for 3 beats. This activity also illustrates the need for a computer to have a clock – was that one one? or five ones?!!

This could be done by all pupils in pairs using a paper copy of a light/touch that they hold up to partner or face down at each beat to transmit some data. The metronome represents a computers clock.

sending messages (inc.protocols)

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This resource was created by Alistair Barker ( ) Best to complete the worksheet in class, then head outside, pupils aim to send each other a few characters or a simple word. No speaking – all in silence. First, they pair up and complete the sheet below to agree on the pattern of 1’s and 0’s to represent an A or E, etc. They also need to agree on patterns to encode the protocol part – “are you ready to send?”…They play the role of sender and reciever, getting together afterwards to see if they sent the intended message.

can link to ASCII/Unicode, bar codes, check digits and error correction topics.

team dance…

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Pupils choose a theme, for example, ‘dino dance’, the teacher, for ease could decide on the same music for all, playing music to the whole class. Keep routines short – 30 seconds for example. The pupils will create their own short routine, with loops. They must note the sequence for their dance down on paper, in any notation. Groups can perform to each other and the watching groups must try and decompose their dance, describing it (noting on paper). They could then try and recreate the other groups dance…or not!

An activity such as this could be followed up by creating a longer routine with more avatars in software such as Yenka.

draw what I say

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The aim of this task is highlighting the importance of clear and precise instructions. Make the point that computers follow many simple instructions and will not fill in gaps or make assumptions like we do as humans.

Hand paper to each pupil. Pupils should draw what you say. No questions allowed, do in silence. Start with a simple shape. Pupils then hold up and show each other. Amusement may following. Then perhaps build up to a simple house or animal…

next pair pupils up to take it in turns to explain to each other their own simple drawings, repeating a couple times.

theme park ride

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Pupils design a log flume type theme park ride. First, draw a top-down view of the ride. Annotate with places where you would need some kind of sensor/gate to ensure each boat won’t crash into each other. Where will the belt lifts be on your ride? these are controlled by motor and will need turning on and off. Spraying water jets? sounds when in a tunnel? These will need turning on and off. Your task is to sketch your ride and then describe it as a flowchart. Pupils find it easier to describe the ride in full sentence English first before creating their flowchart. They find looping and decision points ticky so modeling an example is essential.

example 1.


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There are lots of problems like these around. Key is not solving them but getting pupils to think about HOW they solved them. A simple problem can go along way. Ask pupils, perhaps in pairs to explain how they solved to another pair or to class. Aim to get them to write down how to solve as a series of steps.