Boolean Exercise

colours3A colleague of mine has an exercise for teaching Boolean operators by asking students with a cell phone to stand up, then students with a cell phone AND a laptop to stand up, and so on. I find that the problem with this is that you don’t know who has what ahead of time, and if everyone has both a cell phone and a laptop, it doesn’t work.

A variant of this exercise uses colour of clothing, but doesn’t work if the whole class is wearing blue and black, and even if one guy happens to be wearing fuchsia corduroy pants, having him stand up while everyone else sits down is … awkward. The same is true of singling out the one kid with blue eyes and blond hair in a class where everyone else has brown eyes and brown hair.

So I’ve created a Boolean Exercise in which there are no surprises. Each student gets an envelope containing three pieces of paper in some combination of red, blue, green, yellow and purple. And since I put those pieces of paper in the envelopes, I know exactly how many students will stand up when I ask for (red OR blue OR green) AND yellow but NOT purple.

In addition, I have PowerPoint slides that show the operators connecting blocks of colour. This means that the students don’t even need to pay attention to the words that I use for the colours, which decreases the cognitive load for the ESL students and allows them to concentrate on the essentials, which are the Boolean operators themselves

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