Twenty Guesses—Information Theory

This Twenty Guesses—Information Theory activity & project also includes:

How do we determine how much information to include and what can be left out? By playing a game of 20 questions, the class generates the best strategies for finding a number. They then move on to guessing the next letter in a short sentence. An extension activity makes connections to decisions trees, guessing a number, and its binary code.

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Instructional Ideas

  • After the activity, have the class research different methods used by computers for compression
  • Research the way texting applications now provide suggested words that may come next
Classroom Considerations

  • The 20-question activity may leave out some classmates, depending on class size

  • The plan includes solutions and hints for the questions asked during the discussion
  • The lesson has a section that ties the guessing game to computer compression codes

  • Many pupils may not understand the measure of information is how surprising it is