Magic and Computational Thinking

Teaching London Computing in conjunction with cs4fn have produced a series of fun activities and booklets based around magic tricks that teach computing topics and computational thinking for use in the classroom, suitable for all ages.

Do the magic, explain how it works and at the same time explain some core computing or computational thinking topic. It turns out that magic and computing have lots in common. Both are about controlling computation and both rely on the same computational thinking skills. They also draw on the same psychology when done well.

Magic Activity Sheets

  • Magic: The Australian Magician’s Dream Activity
    • Do a magic trick where your predict a chosen card.
    • Learn about algorithms, computational thinking, abstraction, logical reasoning,  computational modelling and searching.
  • Magic: The Invisible Palming Activity
    • Do a trick where you magically move a card from one pile to another by palming it invisibly! 
    • Learn about algorithms, computational thinking, human computer interaction.
  • Magic: The Four Aces Activity
    • You do a magic trick where you steal all the Aces from a volunteer without anyone noticing.  
    • Learn about human-computer interaction, usability, designing to prevent error.
  • Magic: The Teleporting Robot Activity
    • You put together a jigsaw that has 17 robots, but then put it together again and now it only has 16.  
    • Learn about computational thinking, human-computer interaction, usability, designing to prevent error.
  • Magic: The Red Black Mind Meld Activity
    • You control the actions of another placing cards making a red black prediction come true.
    • Learn about  logical thinking, abstraction, mathematical models and uses of algebra.

We have lots more unplugged activities in our activity section.

Magic Booklets

These glossy magic booklets include lots more tricks. They again follow the style of explaining how to do a trick, linked to an explanation of some linked computing topic (and often other science or mathematics topic too).

  • The Magic of Computer Science
    • A book of magic tricks with linked computer science lessons and the maths and science linked to the computing concepts.
  • The Magic of Computer Science II
    • A second book of magic tricks with linked computer science lessons and the maths and science linked to the computing concepts.
  • The Magic of Computer Science III
    • A third book of magic tricks with linked computer science lessons and the maths and science linked to the computing concepts. This one has a focus on interdisciplinary computational thinking.
  • Magic and Algorithms: The Australian Magician’s Dream
    • A booklet on computational thinking based around a magic trick and how punch cards were once used to store and search for data.
    • Learn about search algorithms, divide and conquer, binary numbers, computational thinking, generalisation and pattern matching, abstraction, data representation, computational modelling, algorithmic thinking, evaluation, logical thinking.

Interdisciplinary Magic

Magic is a great fun way to cover other engineering and science topics too.

 

More resources

More of our resources, including linked computing ‘story’ booklets can be found in our resources section. You may also want to look at cs4fn’s teacher resources or browse the latest cs4fn magazine.

Other excellent sources of a similar style of activity are the New Zealand based but globally used CS Unplugged site and the Glasgow University CS Inside project.

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