The second game we tested in our fall experiment is about writing, understanding, and performing the steps of algorithms.
Computer Science Concept
An algorithm is a series of very clear directions (in a natural language) of how to accomplish a task. Each step in an algorithm needs to be clear and concise, and no steps can be missing. There must be no ambiguity when somebody (whether a person or a computer) is reading the directions.
Learning objective: A student should be able to both create and understand an algorithm of clear and concise directions to solve a simple problem.
The full set of game rules used in our experiment is available as a PDF.
Two teams race to accomplish a series of tasks. The 4 tasks are grouped into 2 halves of the game. There is a winning team for each half of the game.
Players will follow written instructions from the facilitator and then write clear and specific instructions for the next players that explain how to go somewhere, find something, do something, or build something. Players execute the instructions blindly—without seeing or knowing the exact end result.
The winning team is the team that finishes the 2 tasks of one half of the game first. Each leg is a task. Reaching the finish line first in the final leg is the winning team of the second half.
Before the session, secretly from players, facilitators will prepare and place the final clue item, and a picture for leg 4, in a different room or into the hallway. Then they will prepare the clue bags for leg 1 to have the cat toys and food etc, and the maps for clue bags for leg 2. Finally they will prepare the crates with decorations for leg 3.
In brief, the relay race steps are:
- Clue Bag #1: Write directions to lay out four objects in precise positions on the floor.
- Clue Bag #2: Write directions to locate the bag, and then to draw a route on a gridded map.
- Crate #3: Write directions to decorate a crate.
- Race (with the assembled crate) Write directions to the final location—the finish line, which is outside the classroom and a bit tricky to find a picture that goes into the crate.
Who doesn’t love a lost cat story with an extraordinary journey and a happy ending?
In a famous true tale, a friendly calico cat named Colins ends up on a long sea voyage. A bonus: There are news reports, a radio retelling of her story, pictures, and fond memories for students who want to dive deeper.
For our purposes, the stops in the relay race are locations and key events in Colins’ great adventure. The story unfolds as kids play. The “final destination” is a surprise ending, and a tearful return of the cat to its owner—a dock worker in New Zealand, where Colins becomes famous and is now memorialized with a stone.
The story version of the facilitator’s script is available for download.