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Integrating Digital Technologies
Years F-2

DT+ Mathematics


Compare algorithms designed to complete the same task, and evaluate each for efficiency.



Suggested steps

Provide students with a number of tasks that can be completed in different ways (each has the same outcome). Challenge students to complete each task in the least possible time.

  • Enable students to repeat the tasks to develop more efficient processes.
  • Students can work in pairs, groups or individually, with a reward for those who complete the tasks most efficiently and fastest. For example, counting a large number of coins and notes; setting a table for ten people using cutlery for three courses; preparing buttered ham-and-cheese sandwiches for the entire class; sorting and counting coloured Lego blocks; sorting and grouping numbers; sorting and grouping familiar words; sorting pairs of coloured socks; sorting and counting mixed lollies or Smarties.
  • Ask students to (with or without support) write down the steps they followed to complete their task.

Discussion

  • Discuss the various methods that students used to complete the same task.
  • Encourage students to suggest reasons why some students were able to complete tasks faster than others.
  • Record the processes. For example, when counting money it is faster to group notes and coins and then add, rather than to count every coin and note individually. Similarly, grouping similar items of any kind and adding the total number in each group is faster than counting each item separately.

Why is this relevant?

Designing an algorithm usually starts with a problem that needs to be solved. When problems are too large to solve by hand, we can use computers to solve the problem. This activity supports students to understand that there are different methods or sets of instructions that can be used to solve problems or complete set tasks. Some methods are more efficient than others.

This activity also helps students understand that they can adapt their processes and instructions based on their observations of a resulting outcome (successful or unsuccessful, efficient or inefficient). They are then able to provide a set of instructions to achieve a desired outcome more efficiently.