Introducing: free booklet “The magic of computer science: magic meets mistakes, machines and medicine”

Blogpost crossposted on both CHI+MED and Teaching London Computing sites.

We have a new booklet out which you can download as a PDF (click on the picture below to visit the book’s microsite) and find out more about where “magic meets mistakes, machines and medicine”.

The Magic of Computer Science 3: magic meets mistakes, machines and medicine
magicbookcover3cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) is an outreach project from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) which aims to enthuse school-aged children about computer science. There’s a website and a magazine (usually two issues a year) with special issues and booklets – this is the latest magic booklet.

Paul Curzon and Peter McOwan who set up cs4fn at QMUL are both magicians and also both work on the CHI+MED project and Teaching London Computing. Previous blog posts have referred to to CHI+MED’s use of magic in our public engagement work.

“The cs4fn magic books are collections of easy to do magic tricks (mainly simple card tricks). The twist is that every trick comes with a link to some computer science too. That means that as you learn the tricks, you will learn something about what computer scientists get up to too.

Magic is a combination of a secret method and a presentation. A computer scientist would call the method an algorithm, and that is all a computer program is too. The presentation corresponds to the interaction design of a program. For a magic trick to delight, you must get both the algorithm and presentation right. The same is true for programs.”

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This comes from page 9 of the booklet.

This booklet is published by cs4fn (Computer Science for Fun) in partnership with Teaching London Computing (TLC) and CHI+MED. CHI+MED is funded by the EPSRC and Teaching London Computing by the Mayor of London and the Department for Education.

Download the Magic books

Free Computing workshop with Paul Curzon – Unplugged programming / algorithms, Wed 29 Oct 1.30-5pm

Eventbrite - Free Computing workshop with Paul Curzon - Unplugged computing / algorithms at QMUL for this event on 29 October 2014, 1.30pm to 5pm.

On Wednesday 29 October 2014 Prof Paul Curzon will be doing a 3 hour workshop session at Queen Mary University of London on unplugged programming and algorithms. Previous sessions have proved extremely popular so we recommend booking early.

The workshop will start at 1.30 and continue until 5pm with a half hour break for tea and networking in the middle. These workshops are free for Computing teachers.

You can register for a free place using the orange Eventbrite button above or at the end of the page, or visit the Eventbrite page.

When: Wednesday 29 October 2014, 1.30pm to 5pm
Where: QMUL (Queen Mary University of London)
For whom: Computing teachers
What: Two workshops (click on the links below to find out more and download free class activity sheets)
Invisible palming! Intelligent paper? So what is an algorithm?
Programming unplugged: learning programming without computers
Cost: FREE!

Although these workshops are aimed at those who’ll be teaching the Computing Science curriculum we have made a few spaces (also free) available to ‘interested persons’ – ie anyone who is interested in finding out how aspects of the computing curriculum can be introduced into the classroom.

1. Invisible palming! Intelligent paper? So what is an algorithm?

A core idea in the computing curriculum is that of algorithms and algorithmic thinking. But what is an algorithm? We will demonstrate a series of fun and intriguing ways to introduce the core ideas about algorithms. You will pit your wits against my intelligent piece of paper looking not only what an algorithm is but whether machines can ever be intelligent. You will also learn how really simple magic tricks that anyone can do, can illustrate what an algorithm is in a much more fun way than making a cup of tea (!) and you will learn the magic too!

This session will cover:

  • What is an algorithm?
  • Can machines be intelligent?
  • Computational thinking: algorithmic thinking, abstraction

2. Programming unplugged: learning programming without computers

It’s easy to assume that programming is something you have to learn at a computer but if you want your students to deeply understand programming concepts, rather than blindly getting programs to work then unplugged techniques can work really well to get students started. We will see how to program a robot face that is made of students, look at a simple way to give a deep understanding of how variables work by making them physical, and see how to compile programs onto your class instead of onto a computer.

Session material This session will cover:

  • Inspiring ways to introduce programming away from computers.
  • What is a variable?
  • How does assignment work?
  • Programming simple objects
  • Introducing flow of control and if statements

Activities are suitable for all age groups and can be adapted to fit your teaching needs.


Paul Curzon is a Professor of Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London. He runs the cs4fn ‘Computer Science for Fun’ (cs4fn) project, It aims to inspire school students about computer science through a series of free magazines, website and school shows. He regularly gives such shows around the UK as well as continuous professional development talks to teachers about the cs4fn approach to teaching. He is Director of the Teaching London Computing Project. He was made a UK National Teaching Fellow in 2010 in recognition of his excellence in teaching and outreach, was a finalist in the 2009 Times Higher Education Innovative Teacher of the year award and has twice won the student nominated Queen Mary award for excellence in teaching.

Eventbrite - Free Computing workshop with Paul Curzon - Unplugged computing / algorithms at QMUL for the event on 29 October 2014.

Two new free computing workshops with Paul Curzon – 4pm, 25 Jun & 9 July in Hackney

We’re delighted to announce that Paul Curzon will be running another two free workshops for Computing teachers in London. These will take place in a school in Hackney on Wednesday 25 June (A) and Wednesday 9 July 2014 (B).

Workshop A – Invisible Palming! Intelligent paper? So what is an algorithm?
4pm, Wednesday 25 June 2014
Cardinal Pole School, 205 Morning Ln, Hackney, London E9 6LG

Workshop BProgramming Unplugged: Learning programming without computers
4pm, Wednesday 9 July 2014
Cardinal Pole School, 205 Morning Ln, Hackney, London E9 6LG
Eventbrite - FREE workshop with Teaching London Computing - programming unplugged for a free place.

Our other events and courses
FREE: Paul is also presenting a talk “Teaching Computing Unplugged to Young Children” for primary school computing teachers, on 8 July 2014 at a two-day workshop event at Goldsmiths in London. Please note that registration for this event is via Goldsmiths (given in link).

NOT FREE: We also have a new short course for GCSE Computing teachers which will take place at KCL from 4-8 August (Mon-Fri) 2014. “Computing CPD GCSE Summer Holiday (1-week intensive)” costs £150 for London teachers and £300 for those outside London (if space is available)