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Birthday Sort

By Caitlin Davey 15 minutes
Grades 1-3
Science and Technology,
  • Programming
  • Data
  • Technology and Society
Tools & Languages

Key Coding Concepts

  • Algorithms
  • Loops
  • Sequences



A step-by-step set of operations to be performed to help solve a problem



Running the same sequence multiple times i.e. repeat or forever blocks



Identifying a series of steps for a task. Computers and Scratch read and perform commands in order from top to bottom

In this inquiry-based offline activity, learners will discuss algorithms and how they help computers move through enormous amounts of information in a short amount of time.

Make enough space in the classroom for learners to easily move around.


Algorithms are a list of rules to follow in order to solve a problem. We use these everyday and may not notice. To better understand how algorithms work we will practice one in real life.


  1. Instruct learners to organize themselves in a line from youngest to oldest after you say GO! BUT, they will have to organize themselves in complete silence.
  2. Time learners as they line up.
  3. Once learners have finished, tell them the time that they made.
  4. Now have learners sort themselves again. See if they can beat their initial time.
  5. Announce the time again, and ask learners:
    • What was different between the first sorting time and the second?
    • What strategies did they use to communicate?
    • What strategies did they decide on to sort themselves?
    • Was there a leader?
  6. The type of algorithm that learners practiced is called a sorting algorithm. Software developers ask the same questions above as they develop computer programs. Sorting algorithms help computers sift through large sets of data or information quickly.
  7. If you have time, watch these silly videos for fun. They show dancers enacting different sorting algorithms.

Assess learners’ ability to collaborate and communicate as a group.

Check for Understanding of Terminology: Have learners explain in their own words algorithm, loop and sequence. If additional clarification is needed, show these videos: BBC Learning - What Is An Algorithm | TED Ed - The Prison Break | Think Like A Coder, Ep 1

Have learners research an algorithm to learn more about how it works.

Have learners act as representatives of their specific algorithms and debate why their algorithm is the most efficient way to solve the problem.

Technology in Society: Discuss the different sorting methods learners used.
Ask learners when else they might need to sort items. Use the example alphabetizing books in the library. Show this video on methods of sorting. Have learners try one of the sorting approaches in the video to line up in order of their birthdays. Example: Merge Sort. Explain the importance of creating an efficient algorithm so the computer can process the program quickly.

AlgoRythmics YouTube Channel

BBC Learning - What Is An Algorithm (RUMPUS!)

The Prison Break | Think Like A Coder, Ep 1 (TED-Ed)

What's the fastest way to alphabetize your bookshelf? - Chand John (TED-Ed)

Teach lessons that are tied to your existing curriculum!


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    Although learning how to build digital projects is a key part of Computer Science education, students should also learn a wider set of skills and competencies that will help them to harness the power of digital technologies as both creators and consumers. A comprehensive approach to K-12 Computer Science education includes learning about the following five focus areas:

    View Framework ➝


    By the end of high school, students should be able to create a simple computer program.

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