Australian Magician's Dream

Made up of two complementary activities, these resources from the CS4FN team go deeper into theory about search algorithms.

The first activity involves the teacher leading a magic trick using some normal playing cards. In the subsequent explanation of the trick, students are asked to consider the pseudocode description of the algorithm used. They learn about abstraction while simplifying the situation.

The trick employs a special ‘deal’ that reflects algorithms developed for searching through punched cards. This uses the properties of binary numbers to ‘divide and conquer’ from a large set to a single, predictable, result.

This activity builds on basic knowledge of search algorithms, and would helpfully develop student understanding ready for more complex algorithmic thinking.

The second activity – punch-card sorting – follows on, and makes use of a set of punch cards (provided). Using the same deal as demonstrated in the previous activity, any card can then be found. The importance of binary numbers in this algorithm is demonstrated and explained in logical terms.

A range of follow-on activities is suggested, as is some further reading.

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