Birthday Sort

Grade All Grades • 30 minutes

Created by Caitlin Davey on 29/3/17


In this inquiry-based offline activity students will learn about algorithms and their use in helping computers move through enormous amounts of information efficiently in a short amount of time.

Prep Work

  • Check out our Teacher Guide for tips and tricks! 
  • Make enough space in the classroom for students to easily move around
  • Have students stand up

The Lesson


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.


  • Instruct students that they need to organize themselves in a line from youngest to oldest after you say GO!
  • BUT, they will have to organize themselves in complete silence.
  • Time students as they line up.
  • Once students have finished tell students the time that they made.
  • Now have students sort themselves again. See if they can beat their initial time.
  • Announce the time again, and ask students:
  • 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?
  • The type of algorithm that student practiced is called a sorting algorithm. Software developers asked the same questions above as they develop computer programs. Sorting algorithms help computers sift through large sets of data or information quickly.


  • Assess students ability to collaborate and communicate as a group.


  • Have students research an algorithm to learn more about how it works. 
  • Have students act as representatives of their algorithms and debate why theirs is best.

Suggested Lessons

Intended Province:


  • Subjects:
  • Technology Education
  • Mathematics