An algorithm is step by step set of operations need to reach a goal. I taught my students how to build and walk an algorithm by playing a series of coding games. They liked it so much I brought it home for my son to play. The first of the two games is one I made up to introduce algorithms. The second game is one I learned when I attended a workshop offered by Coding.org. I called both coding games Searching for Treasure. The goals of both of the games was to guide someone to the piece of paper with the treasure box. We used the directional words up, down, left and right as we guided them to the treasure box. You could used the words north, south, east and west if you like.
This version of Searching for Treasure is called Treasure Up because all of the kids can see the picture of the treasure box. The treasure box picture is facing up.
I had the children sit behind the array of papers so they would be facing the same way the child would be walking. That way up, down, left and right would mean the same thing to all of them. The key to having children create a successful algorithm is knowing the direction words to give the child following them. Making sure we all could see if the child was heading to the picture helped to know if we were on course.
At school I had a larger space to learn in. I placed the treasure box paper near the top of an array of paper. The array was made of five rows of four pieces of paper. That opened the door to having a variety of algorithms created by the students. There were a lot of ways to guide them to the treasure.
We don’t have a lot of room at home. I created a simple path that offered a few different ways to create an algorithm. My son was able to get a feel for the game even with fewer pieces of paper.
Once the direction words were explained, the children took turns sharing the direction they student on the starting paper should go. (Any piece of paper can be your starting place.) They had to remember that the key was to create an algorithm that would guide them to the treasure.
This version of the coding games has a tricky element. That element is that the picture of the treasure box is turned upside down. Why is it tricky? The class or the algorithm creator has to remember where the picture is. I had the student who would be walking the algorithm leave the room while I had another student place the paper in array. The whole class had to remember where it was while they built the algorithm of steps. At home I needed to remember on my own. (Maybe is was better that I had fewer pieces of paper in the array at home.)
If your children forget where the treasure is, you can have the child walking turn away from group. You can then point to the paper they need to guide them too.
This is part of a series of STEM activities being shared on a number of wonderful blogs. For a full list of all the STEM activities including several more coding games please visit Left Brain Craft Brain. (They are hosting this wonderful event.) You will also find a number of STEM activities on my Early Learning Science Activities board on Pinterest.