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Session 1 - Real-life algorithms: paper airplanes

The main objective of this session is to understand what algorithms are.


  • Ask what 'algorithms' are. Explain that an algorithm is a sequence of instructions or a set of rules that are followed to complete a task. This task can be anything, so long as you can give clear instructions for it.
  • Can the pupil think of sets of instructions that we may follow in everyday life (E.g. How to make a fruit smoothie, getting dressed for school, tying a shoe lace etc)
  • Ask if the instructions need to be in a precise order for the instructions to work. Think of the order of the steps in making a fruit smoothie. Will it be a good idea for us to switch the blender on before putting a lid on the blender? (Answer: No, because we will make a huge mess)
  • Now the pupil can move onto the main activity. Order the steps of the paper airplane first (Paper Airplane Worksheet) NOTE: Pupil may point out that not all of the cut-outs are needed. This is fine- ask them to put these to one side for now.
  • Test whether the algorithm works by making a paper airplane using a piece of A4 paper. If it does not work, why not? Discuss
  • Discuss any changes your child/ren needed to make to their sequence of commands. These changes are called debugging and children need encouraging to persevere when fixing any errors. Point out that being able to debug is a really valuable tool for life when we’re solving problems. These opportunities to debug are often when the most learning takes place.
  • Use the L1- Assessment Worksheet to see what the child has remembered about algorithms. This is to be attempted independently.

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