Resources: some of our favourite unplugged algorithm activities

Computer Science doesn’t have to be taught only with computers. There are many engaging activities that can promote computational thinking and provide an introduction to algorithms in an “unplugged” way!

We’ve curated a few of our favourite unplugged algorithm activities shared by our Project Officers that they model in their CSER Digital Technologies workshops with teachers. These activities can be done with all ages and can be easily adapted!

Activity 1

Learners find a partner and place a barrier between them (using a book, hat, etc) so they cannot see each other’s desk space. Using building blocks or Lego, students individually create a design and write the instructions (an algorithm) for how to re-create the design that their partner is to follow. Once partners have both finished, swap instructions and students follow their partner’s algorithm. Once both are ready, students remove the barrier – did they turn out as intended?! Depending on the age group, invite students to share what they learned from the activity and what they found to be challenging. What parts of their design need to be fixed (“debugged”)?

Activity 2 

In this activity, we undertake a similar approach to the one above, except this activity can be done with pen and paper! One partner draws a shape, letter or number and writes the algorithm for their partner to follow. The instructions can be passed on to the partner to follow or can be read aloud to engage students in developing listening and speaking skills! When provided an opportunity to write instructions without any code or rules, what did they notice about the way their partner interpreted their instructions?

Activity 3

In this activity, students each receive graph paper (with larger sized squares). Using black and white squares or by colouring over laminated sheets with a whiteboard marker, students create a pixel image. Using only arrows and a “colour-in-the-square” icon, they need to design the algorithm for their partner to re-create the pixel image.

If you liked these unplugged algorithm activities or have some of your own ideas, share them with us on Twitter with #csermoocs or on our CSER Facebook page!

Tagged in News, Resources