Use Dixie cups with numbers written on the bottom to demonstrate sorting arrays and heap operations in a tangible, physical way.

  • It’s important that the numbers are written on the bottom of the cups so that students must lift them up when developing an algorithm for sorting the array or performing heap operations.
    • This emulates how the computer does not know what number a certain index holds unless it specifically checks.
    • If the numbers are in plain sight, students might just look at all the numbers simultaneously without having to develop an algorithm.
    • If you don’t have dixie cups, you could use a set of playing cards in this demonstration where the cards are all placed face down.
  • To increase their intuition for these algorithms, have students manipulate the numbered cups themselves.
    • Physically acting out an algorithm can help students turn that algorithm into code.
  • Students often get confused by these algorithms, so having a physical representation is very important to their understanding.
  • For more information, check out this CS Education Zoo video with our very own Colleen Lewis!