Hour of Code: Binary Numbers and Binary Addition

I want to contribute to the Hour of Code event happening now during Computer Science Education Week.

I don’t write about computer programming, but I do write extensively about how computers work — in particular, about how they do arithmetic with binary numbers. For your “hour of code” I’d like to introduce you to binary numbers and binary addition. I’ve selected several of my articles for you to read, and I’ve written some exercises you can try on my online calculators.

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One Hundred Acorns in Binary

Today is the 100th day of school at my son’s elementary school. I’ve had my binary influence on prior 100th day projects, and this year was to be no different. But alas, his class is not doing one this year. I didn’t want to waste the acorn tops we saved though, so I made my own 100th day project (well not quite — I didn’t glue them):

A Binary Multiplication Problem Expressed With One Hundred Acorn Tops
A Binary Multiplication Problem Expressed With One Hundred Acorn Tops.

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How I Taught Third Graders Binary Numbers

Last week I introduced my son’s third grade class to binary numbers. I wanted to build on my prior visit, where I introduced them to the powers of two. By teaching them binary, I showed them that place value is not limited to base ten, and that there is a difference between numbers and numerals.

My presentation was based on base-ten-block-like imagery, since I knew the students were comfortable expressing numbers with base ten blocks. I thought extending the block model to other bases would work well. I think it did.

The Number Twenty-Seven, Broken Into Powers of Two
The Number Twenty-Seven in Tape Flags, Broken Into Powers of Two

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1,073,741,823 Grains of Rice

In the children’s book “One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale” a girl uses her knowledge of exponential growth to trick a greedy king into turning over his stockpile of rice. Hidden in the story are mathematical concepts related to doubling: powers of two, geometric sequences, geometric series, and exponents. I will analyze the story from this perspective, and then discuss my experience reading it to first and third grade students.

One Grain of Rice Book Cover
Front Cover of the Book “One Grain of Rice”

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How I Taught My Mother Binary Numbers

I introduced my mother to binary numbers a few weeks ago when I showed her my One Hundred Cheerios in Binary poster. It shows the decimal number 100 in binary — 1100100. She’s not an engineer but she’s good with numbers, so I knew she would get it — if only I could find the right way to explain it. Two days ago, I found the right way.

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One Hundred Cheerios in Binary

My son had to do a project for his 100th day of first grade. Since I’ve been teaching him binary — he knows the powers of two from 1 to 512 — we decided to incorporate it into his project. His assignment was to assemble 100 objects in a creative way. This is as creative as I get:

One Hundred Cheerios, in Binary.
One Hundred Cheerios®, in Binary.

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