Game 2 Results: Writing and Performing Algorithms

As previously described, our second game for our fall experiment covered the computer science concept of writing and performing algorithms.  This post summarizes some of the game-day observations made of the participants.

Note that the full set of game rules used in this experiment is available as a PDF.

Abstract Group

The session began with a recap of the previous week’s session, then the question of what an algorithm is was posed to the group.  The girls seemed to like all aspects of the game.  They enjoyed going outside, liked that the game was easy and fun, and particularly loved the last part of the relay race.  However, some girls did seem to dislike having to be so specific with their algorithms.

The girls generally appeared to be engaged, though there were two girls that appeared less involved in the game. Two girls (perhaps the same ones) also answered “I don’t know” on all their pre-assessment questions without bothering to read the questions. During the game, everyone seemed to prefer performing the algorithms instead of writing them.

Students waiting for their teammates to finish writing their algorithms got bored, and passed the time chatting with the facilitators or drawing on the board. We think that a staggered approach to the relay race might help address the issue of players not always having something to do, but we have not tested this idea.

Story Group

As in the abstract group, the girls were asked about what an algorithm is. One student had the correct answer! The girls were asked to help make an algorithm for making a peanut butter sandwich. They laughed when they saw that the result of their instructions was not as they had intended.

When groups were formed and the first algorithm was written and performed, the girls said they liked the relay aspect, executing the instructions, and getting outside of the classroom. The facilitators saw lots of giggles and smiles, and most students were very engaged.

The team one facilitator was working with frequently needed nudging and redirection. They were very laissez-faire in their execution until they one of the girls noticed and mentioned that the other teams seemed further along. At this point, the facilitator reminded them that this was a relay race so if the other teams look further along, they need to hurry to catch up. After the reminder, they seemed to have some more urgency. There was also one girl in the group who was quieter than the others; in an effort to keep her involved, the facilitator encouraged her to be the writer when she and her partner’s instructions needed modifications. In general, the map instructions in particular needed the most modifications before the girls could execute them correctly.

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