1.6 - Explaining a "protocol"

I found that I wasn’t explaining the concept of a “protocol” well. Many students had blank faces trying to create a protocol. Some of their first attempts at a protocol said, “draw a star”.

So I started class with this: (attached image). I gave each student a copy. told them NO TALKING, and that in a moment I would send them a 3 bit chunked protocol.

Then, I sent the protocol (011, 100, 010, 100, 010, 100, 101). I gave them 30 seconds to interpret then made them stand up. I said “go” and they started clapping, waving, spinning, etc. I’d say half of them were in sync with the correct protocol.

I’d love any feedback - my goal was to show a protocol that allowed for a message to be send without giving any clues on how to solve the star or shape drawing activity.


I love this idea to help students understand a protocol more concretely! Adding movement in there is a huge plus too! I can see my students somewhat roll their eyes at this (mostly juniors and seniors) BUT I think they will be better protocol writers because of it.

Thanks for sharing!

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I am confused when you say" I sent the protocol (011, 100, 010, 100, 010, 100, 101)"
Wouldn’t the "protocol’ be the directions “Clap x times, etc…” ?
And the binary numbers you send to the students be the data that the students must interpret using that protocol?


Absolutely you are correct, I used the wrong vocabulary in my post. I did give the students a protocol and send them the binary data.

How did you send them all the bits? I am having the same issues…

I simply read those numbers aloud. I said, “Zero, one, one… one zero zero…”. The speaking aloud would have represented sending data verbally.

Ah awesome, I will try this tomorrow! Thank you!

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Your Method was very useful to my students. The protocol was easy for them to understand.

This is great…thanks for putting it here for us to use! I added the following wording on the handoust to help with vocab words and make it clear the student on what is expected…
“Using the protocol below (dcook1’s protocol), listen to the teacher for the binary data needed for this exercise. Fill in the blank spaces with the correct decimal numbers (converted from the binary numbers verbally told to you by the teacher).”

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I really like this idea. Thank you for sharing. I’ll try this tomorrow.

Wow, this is great. I so am with you. Blank stares when asked to make a protocol for the star. I changed it to a triangle. Out of 85 students, 2 were able to somewhat develop a protocol. I think it requires way more math experience than I have. Really disliked this lesson plan, will try this method. Brilliant! You must be a math teacher :0

This is a great introductory activity. Thank you.It’s not that easy for kids to just start writing protocols. I also decided to start with an easier shape - triangle. The star is too complicated as the only activity of the lesson. After my kids figured out how to write a protocol for a triangle, the star wasn’t a problem.:star_struck:

From a wonderful helper, I learned that part of the object of this lesson is to understand going from 4 bits to 6 or 7 bits, just make sure the triangle is BIG an (x,y) of 23 or 24.

I am beyond confused with this whole lesson. :frowning: Not really sure what I’ve missed, but I feel like I have to jump over this lesson for now because it feels unclear. Maybe a video of this would be helpful? (I do know there is the internet simulator video, but that wasn’t very helpful with the grid exercise…)

Hi @cditzel1,

You can see you’re not alone in your confusion. Actually someone else had a question about this lesson, which I responded to in a separate post.

To summarize, I recommend putting aside talk about protocols and simply frame the problem as “How can we send this shape to someone if all we can send is numbers?” Solutions will naturally take on the form of a protocol.

(There’s also example protocols in that thread.)