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Binary Digits

Represent any number with just 1s and 0s

Start your session with a community builder. For community builder suggestions, download the YDToolbox App

To build a sense of belonging, check in with members by asking a question like "what kinds of things do you do on a computer?”

Tell your members that they will be trying something brand new today, and remind them that asking questions is important. Revisit any expectations or norms around group discussion or using technology or devices in your Club.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED

DigitalProjector
DigitalVideoCamera
Headphones
Clay
Microphone
 

STEP 1
TIME: 5 MINUTES

How Computers Store Information

Computers have to represent all kinds of information. Images, movies, music, words -- to us all these kinds of things are different. But a computer only uses digits to do all of them. That’s why we call it “digital.”

In fact, most computers only need two digits, just zero and one, to handle all of that information. This system is called “binary” because those are the only two numbers used. In a binary system, 1 and 0 can be represented in a lot of ways. Examples include lights on and off, low and high voltage, and different sounds.

Computers deal with billions of binary digits to complete all the things they need to do. So many, in fact, that the term was shortened to make it easier. Instead of calling each 1 or 0 a binary digit, it’s called a “bit.” Every bit is either 0 or 1.
This activity can be done as a group discussion. Ask your members why we use the term “digital” and where it came from. Then, lead a discussion about binary digits.

STEP 2
TIME: 15 MINUTES

Byte Sized

Eight bits together are called a “byte.” You might heard this term before. The size of a computer or device’s storage is often measured in “gigabytes,” a term that means means billions of bytes.

You can see a representation of 8 bits by using these online binary cards.

What do you notice about these images? Each one has a different number of dots and those dots are in a pattern. Can you tell what the pattern of the sequence of cards is?

Here’s a hint: If we added another image, it would have 256 dots.

Each of these images has double the number of dots as the one on its right. Using these images, you can make any number, you just need to use the right ones. In this case, we can turn a bit “on” by showing the dots. If you click on a card, it will turn “off” and show nothing. Just like 1s and 0s, we can say “on” and “off” are binary.

Turn all of the cards “on”. How many dots are showing?

In this case, a card that is off is a 0, and a card that is on is a 1. So the byte can represent 255 by using binary digits as 11111111.

This activity can also be done in “unplugged” style by printing copies of binary cards, or making your own. Members can use copies of the cards and flip them over on tables, or work in groups where everyone is assigned a card.

STEP 3
TIME: 10 MINUTES

Choose A Number

Now that each card can be assigned a 1 or 0, you can make any number and figure out how to express that number in binary. Pick any number between 0 and 255.

Here is an example: How could you make 13? Use the cards 8, 4, and 1. In binary, that would be 00001011.

What other binary numbers can you create?

Now let’s try it the other way. If you had the binary number 11001000, what number does that turn out to be?
Members can do this activity in pairs. One member can choose a number and the other can put it into binary. Then ask members to switch roles so that the other person can “decode” a binary number.

The example number 11001000 would be 200. Members can try this as many times as they’d like, either with online or paper cards. You can also show the online cards on a projector and work as a larger group.

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