BEE BOTS, Coding, Computer Science

Sorting Networks (Unplugged) – Place Value & Rounding

Sorting Networks (Unplugged) – You ever wonder how computers work together to solve problems. Working with a 3rd grade teacher, we decided to integrate CS into her math unit on place value. I was invited in to review place value with her students, then demonstrate how a network of computers work together to solve a problem. Using a lesson I found on, students practiced putting numbers in order from least to greatest.

Sorting Networks

For this lesson, I purchased a painter’s tarp from Harbor Freight ($16.99) and an oil based sharpie ($7.99) from Michael’s. I then created a sorting network mat that I can use over and over again. I’m also created a 5×4 grid on the back to use for additional unplugged activities.

Word of caution! Make sure that students are careful walking on the mat so that they will not slip.

Here is the lesson plan. In all, it took about 45 minutes.

3rd grade students using the sorting network mat

For this activity, six students were chosen and were placed on the right side of the mat and given a number. The other students in the class were at their seats and had to write the six numbers from least to greatest on their desks.

Following the arrows, each student then move to the next correct rectangle.

This is where the students practice collaboration, communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. Once a pair of students were on each of the next three rectangles they had to compare numbers, the lowest number went left, the higher number went right. This continued until they were on the left side of the mat.

This was a challenging activity. It required students to go back and debug their program multiple times before getting it correct.

Plans for future use of the sorting mat:

  • Timeline
  • Telling Time
  • Birthdays
  • Map skills
  • ABC order

Can you think of any other?

Click HERE, to check out the Bee Bot (Plugged) Place Value activity for these 3rd and 4th grade students.

Students checking their answer w/ a QR code before coding the BEE BOT!

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Coding, Computer Science, Professional Development

Coding – Unplugged and Plugged

This past summer, I had the opportunity to dive a little deeper into computer science (CS). I tried to wrap my head around how it should look at the elementary school level. What I decided after reading, watching, listening, and discussing with others is that it should be hands-on, interactive, and developmentally appropriate.

Hands-on – This does not mean that you need coding tools to teach computer science. Just that the activity and/or lesson is student-centered.

Interactive – Student should have the opportunity to experience computer science at the concrete, representation, and then onto the abstract stage.

Developmentally Appropriate – That’s right! You do not want to “put the horse before the buggy.” Students should have ample opportunities to learn and experience computer science through unplugged activities (see image below) before plugged activities (see image below) are introduced.

Unplugged – An activity that can be conducted without the use of computers or electronic equipment.

Sorting Network – Unplugged
Student used the Sorting Mat to sort their numbers from least to greatest.

Want to read more about this unplugged activity click HERE?

Plugged – An activity that involves a coding tool (Scratch, Bee Bots, Spheros,, Dash, etc…)

Student created a city, then coded their Sphero to visit several places throughout the city.

Want to read more about this plugged activity click HERE.

As you begin your journey into computer science or you may have already jumped right in, just a reminder that CS is not necessary adding one more thing to teach, but allows you to teach in way that seamlessly integrates probleming solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration into your instruction.

This post contains affiliate links. I will make a commission on any product you buy through those links at no extra charge to you.