Lightest and Heaviest—Sorting Algorithms

This Lightest and Heaviest—Sorting Algorithms activity & project also includes:

How do computers sort data lists? Using eight unknown weights and a balance scale, groups determine the order of the weights from lightest to heaviest. A second activity provides the groups with other methods to order the weights. The groups determine which method is the fastest, which also requires the least number of comparisons.

Instructional Ideas

• Brainstorm ways to sort the weights and calculate the number of comparisons that would be needed to do each method
• For younger classes, limit the number of containers that need to be sorted
Classroom Considerations

• Prepare the containers with sand prior to the start of the lesson for younger classes
Pros

• The lesson provides an active way to explain how a computer sorts data
• The answer key not only provides answers but also gives hints on how to determine the order
Cons

• The lesson does not contain a method in which to check for understanding