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12 December 2022

Algoritheory: combining algorithms & skill based learning

Adrienne Tough profile image
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Adrienne Tough

Recently, I shared a link to a slide deck that combines algorithm questions with theory knowledge. Whilst there are several great resources out there to develop/assess coding skills, I was finding myself repeating the same programs again and so wanted to apply these skills whilst also reinforcing some of the theoretical knowledge.

A work in progress but here are some of the ideas: algoritheory slides

Last week I took this further when teaching binary and linear searches. It was one of the most successful lessons I’ve had when teaching the algorithms. I went through how the algorithm works, modelling on numbers and then had students apply this to CPU components with challenge questions to stretch my more able.

And it has got me thinking how many other opportunities there are to make these cross content links – structure diagrams on a Sat Nav – quick recap on embedded systems; binary search on CPU components – are there any distractors in the list?; algorithm on password/encryption – why are security measures so important?

Now, I am not suggesting that this is always possible. Sometimes it will undoubtedly lead to cognitive overload. But when reviewing skills, revising or when content is nearly finished, I encourage you to be creative with combining more than one topic. Not only does this help students appreciate that the topics connect- rather than isolated content to learn- it provides more opportunities revisit content (and we know that the more they look at it, the more likely they’ll remember it). Plus, it can help address any misconceptions that might still be lingering.

If you have any successful cross content lessons, I’d love to hear them!


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