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Explaining variables to primary children and staff.

Uses Rock, Paper, Scissors game to imagine a world without keeping score.

Gary Setchell

Created by Gary Setchell
last edited Nov 30 2014 by Gary Setchell



I found that when you cover WHY variables are important, the idea sticks better than when you just cover what they are.

1) Explain we’re going to play Rock, Paper, Scissors.

2) Get others to demo this to those who’ve never played it, then let them practise. See attached file for rules.

3) Explain that the pairs are not allowed to talk or communicate in any way at all - just play until the time is up. Tell them you want to know who the winner is at the end.

4) Put the timer on for 5 minutes and watch the frustration build as they lose count of who is winning.

5) Question on keeping score. The score is a variable - something a program needs to remember that might change.

6) Can they think of any other examples? Traffic lights? Your weight? The temperature?

7) Do a role play of real-life situations without variables: For less able learners you could provide scenarios: Forgetting someone’s birthday (a bit too real-life for me that one!); the bank not knowing how much money you’ve got; a game of football where the scoreboard doesn’t update.

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