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Back to Basics with Binary
Posted 09/18/2018 11:35AM

Third Graders Explore Computer Coding and Secret Messages

Pop Quiz: What does the following message mean? 01000011 01000100 01010011 00100000 01010010 01101111 01100011 01101011 01110011 00100001 Read through this article and see if you can figure it out!

As part of their first MakerLab experience of the year, third graders were introduced to computer design, which included a study of binary code.

All of the lessons were led by STEEM Coordinator Mrs. Hawkins, with assistance from each classroom teacher. The first lesson involved examining and handling a deconstructed computer tower and laptop.  Students learned about the motherboard and the CPU (Central Processing Unit), and they saw and handled a silicon wafer comprised of many CPUs prior to being cut apart.  Students also watched a short video that showed how the circuitry is laid down on the silicon wafer. 

The second lesson introduced binary and the idea of coding. The lesson explained how computers don’t understand language the way that humans do, so they rely on binary numbers and binary math because it greatly simplifies their tasks. Since there are only two possibilities (0 and 1) for each digit rather than 10, it is easier to store or manipulate the numbers.  Binary incorporates the idea of opposites, like off/on that can substitute for the stereotypical 1s and 0s in binary.

The lesson also introduced a coding exercise where students learned to encode their initials in a form that they could take home as binary bead bracelets or key chains.

The final lesson involved learning about binary numbers, comparing Base 10 to Base 2.   Students were shown a binary watch and were challenged to read and write times in binary numbers.

Finally, students coded secret messages in binary using Legos on Lego mats and challenged a friend to decipher their code.

Watch our computer scientists at work:

Click here to read the binary alphabet and see if you can decode the message at the top of this article: Have fun creating your own messages!

Click here for the answer to the Pop Quiz.


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