Binary is a topic often taught using direct instruction. How can you keep inquiry and problem solving in this lesson?
Easy! Have students use binary to “translate” their ages, family ages, encode messages, etc. We can take it further and explore ASCII and dive into ASCII art a bit as well and have them create “secret” messages and geek out with a “decoder” ring. Think back to the days of the Three Investigators and using lemon juice as the invisible ink.
Inquiry and problem solving may be kept in this lesson by allowing students to determine binary numbers for items such as their birthdays and simple messages.
I had students write their name and school ID number in their journals using binary.
Allowing students to work with a partner to define binary numbers and the reason base 2 is used, will allow students to gain knowledge without being directly instructed by their teacher. Students will guide their learning and be able to add valuable knowledge to the learning community.
Once students have the opportunity to count in binary as a class and on their own I think there is an opportunity to delve into why binary is important. I can imagine the video bringing up many research questions and topics that students could further investigate. Perhaps they could break down these concepts and create projects that could be taught to younger students.
In my AP Computer Science Class I typically talk about bits in terms of how a computer counts vs how humans count. I ask them why we typically count to 10. (10 fingers). Then I talk about hypothetical alien species or other cultures that do not count in base 10 and have them consider its significance.
Then I turn it back to the species “Computer” which can only count up to 1 because it’s “hands” can only go on and off. I ask them how many bits or “fingers” are needed to count up to 10. (4 bits). Extending from that I ask them how high is the maximum you can count when using 4 bits (15). This leads into hexadecimal characters and an introduction to color codes. I mention that colors in the computer are 3 pair of hexadecimal characters. Which means that it takes up to 24 bits to express color code. Then mention that the pair of hexadecimal characters is made of a byte. So a color code is 3 bytes. Then I introduce ASCii codes which are 2 bytes each. Then they write their names in binary.
I had my students write a message to another student in binary using an ASCII table. The receiving student then had to translate the message into text.
To keep inquiry and problem solving in the lesson you could briefly introduce binary and then get students to figure out and explain the differences between base 10, base 2, and base 16. I also like others’ ideas of getting students to translate ages, birthdays, and messages using what they’ve learned of binary, decimal, and hexadecimal systems.
I had my students lay out their own cards in front of them and work with the numbers and counting. I then asked them to look for patterns when they count from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on I had them write about their own discoveries first then share as a class. I then had them write one sentence answering this question, “If tomorrow was their birthday what gift would they want, or where would they like to go?” It can only be one complete sentence. After they wrote those sentences we brainstormed how to come up with a method to transform the letters to binary code…and then we wrote that code on the board and then I had them write their sentence out on binary… one on their own paper with their sentence and then one on the sheet provided. I then passed them out to other students to try and decode. https://docs.google.com/document/d/19uvBmK0hoGdEB7KxJ60RpxBsyvfFsalzq_VftfYGrPI/edit?usp=sharing
Applying binary to real situations in life.
Inquiry can be kept in the lesson by allowing students to create their own messages or convert numbers of importance to them into binary.
Students can try to communicate just using 1s and 0s
Have the students practice their new knowledge of binary numbers by solving various problems.
I printed the list of binary code for capital letters and the list for lower case, the students wrote secret messages and traded with friends to decode.
I had my students encode and decode some binary messages.
It took a little time for them to get this one and I found the study aids to be very useful. They got the secret message activity in no time at all and loved the text message activity. (They love the idea of sending messages their parent can’t read.)
Students are prompted to use binary to translate grades, course blocks, names, birthdays, etc.
I use these cards with my class to guess a number that they are thinking. Then, I have them determine how I can guess their number so quickly. They realize there is a pattern on each card. And we end up talking about binary.
Also with this lesson, I teach octal and hexadecimal (since I’m having them do the ACSL contest).
We had a competition between groups to see who could produce a random number given the fastest. We also decoded a message and they are going to create their own code too.