Relating to variables

I wanted to do a discussion on variables that would be easily relatable for students. I had the students write out a list of milestone ages in a person’s life. We then created a master list on the front board of ‘Age’ and why that age is a milestone.

We came up with a list of 8-10 distinct important ages, with their related milestones. From there we talked about how age was a variable, and how different values for that variable had an impact on what occurs in the game we call life.

I am yet to see if this sticks, or helps students who struggle with variables, but I will continue to refer back to this discussion as we move forward. One thing we noted was that this variable is not random, so we talked about how this is similar to things within games (time, levels, score), but also how other variable concepts might exist (location of enemies, direction of wind, lives left that may increase and decrease).

I’m looking for ideas on how to use this or similar ideas to create an unplugged activity for the next time I go through this unit. Variables are so critical, and while some students understand them quickly, other students will need support until it becomes second hand.


Ohhh good point, I’ll do some research on this.

I’m also curious to see what others have done or plan on doing :slight_smile:

Something that comes to mind for me (in terms of unplugged connections to variables) can even be the periods of the school day. We could initialize a variable called “period” and discuss what happens when that variable reaches certain values. In particular, our school has a rotating schedule so each day has different class periods, which could introduce a second variable to track which day we’re in in the rotation.

The concept of keeping score has been easy enough for students to relate to, but I also consider it important to expand students’ understanding of variables beyond just score and lives.

I hope to incorporate some sort of simulation with a variable in the room, but haven’t quite mapped out how this would work. I might make it like a game, where students count how many times I say a certain phrase or perform a certain action. I may also double purpose the activity as a review of other material.