This is a great blog written by one of our best UK Horse Boy practitioners in the UK, Chantel, who works with the Conquest Equestrian Centre. It is a perfect example of how you can use the Movement Method mantra 'drop it, do it, confirm it' to teach anything.
If you have an autistic child in your life who has an interest in computing, maths, patterns or numbers, try introducing them to binary code – it can be really rewarding.
Number Codes- Scary!
Number codes are not scary. Most of us use decimal code in some form every day – we are just so fluent in it now that we forget it is a code. On the inside, computers speak binary code (based on two digits), not decimal (based on ten digits). Binary is less familiar to us, but the basics are straightforward.
Sorry, Binary What?
Binary code is a huge subject which can get really in-depth, but I use the basic concept to pique the interest of kids with who like IT, numbers, sequences, patterns, maths etc. Yes, it is a bit nerdy. But it is also a bit cool, and really important in the digital universe.
Most of us are familiar with computers, smart phones, even CDs, but not so many of us know that all this digital information is boils down to two little numbers – 1 and 0. Every single piece of data in your computer from a keystroke to a colour on your screen is made up of strings of these two digits. They are like the DNA of computing.
Computers use this two-digit binary system because they work by transmitting electrical signals. So the 1 equates to ‘on’ and the 0 to ‘off’. In simple terms, every character, number or symbol that we represent digitally consists of 8 of these digits*, each one called a ‘bit’. A string of 8 bits is called a byte, and a byte equates to one character.
Picture it like a lost sailor with a torch using Morse code. We all know that three short flashes, followed by three long flashes, followed by three more short flashes means SOS, which means ‘Save Our Souls’. We know this is a distress call, so if we saw this, we would go get help. In the same way, when I press ‘a’ on my keyboard, it generates the binary code of 01100001, the electrical signal goes OFF ON ON OFF OFF OFF OFF ON and my computer knows to go get a letter ‘a’.
*There are different types of binary. For this I use 8-bit ASCII binary code representing decimal numbers (not numbers on a keyboard – they are classed as symbols and have different codes).
The Secret Language of Computers – ‘Drop It’
I knew a rider that would love binary code, and I was pretty sure he would instantly understand it. His ritual when arriving at the yard, was to come and have a look at my computer to see what I was working on. I ‘dropped it’ by leaving a sheet of numbers – the base line and a few partially completed code lines (see ‘Do It’ below) – on my desk. When he asked me what it was, I said ‘Oh that, that’s nothing, just a bit of secret code…’ Obviously he was instantly interested! I explained that I’d heard computers use a secret code and I was trying to work it out...
Looking At A Simple Chart – ‘Do It’
I made a simple chart to illustrate decimal numbers 1 – 10, like the one below. They key to understanding the codes is knowing that each 1 or 0 represents a number in the following base line on the chart:
128 64 32 16 8 4 2 1
So the decimal number 1 is represented as:
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
(7 offs, 1 on – decimal and binary 1 look the same)
0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0
(6 offs, 1 on, 1 off – the on is in the ‘2’ column)
0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1
(there is no 3 in the base line, so you need to make it up by representing 2 and 1)
And so on. Bear in mind that you usually don’t show any leading zeros, so 3 is represented as 11 not 00000011, but use the zeros when you are teaching it, because it helps to make sense of it.
Help Me Fill In The Blanks – ‘Confirm It’
I confirmed it using the age-old method of pretending I couldn’t do it on my own! Sure enough, my rider, who had understood this whole thing in seconds, took the sheet off me and filled in the blanks.
Once he understood this, we worked out that a horse has 100 legs, 10 nostrils but still only 1 bum.
I then taught him the following saying:
There are 10 kinds of people in this world – those who understand binary, and those who don’t!
He understood it straight away.