Lightest and Heaviest—Sorting Algorithms

This Lightest and Heaviest—Sorting Algorithms activity 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 worksheet 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.

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CCSS: Adaptable
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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
  • 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
  • The lesson does not contain a method in which to check for understanding
Common Core