computer science breaking the code - STEM show
Computer Science
Computational Thinking
Primary & Secondary Schools

Breaking the Code

Breaking the Code is an amazing interactive show that combines ‘self-working’ magic with key principles of computer science to engage learners and develop skills in computational thinking. Using a combination of specifically chosen ‘self-working’ mysteries, learners will experience the subject in a completely unique, fascinating and memorable way. Breaking the Code is based on the eBook, Computer Science FX and is a flexible show / workshop that can be tailored to suit.

Computer Science Show for Schools

Everybody knows that magic is about entertainment but what does magic have to do with computer science?

Think of it like this… An application is the front-end that the user interacts with and the programming infrastructure is the back-end. It’s the same with a self-working magic trick: the presentation and performance is what we would call the front-end and the meaning and methods are the back-end. With this principle, we can explore in a fascinating way…







Breaking the Code breaks the ‘magicians code’ and engages learners with apparent super powers of mind reading, thought control and precognition!

Computational Thinking

Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behaviour. It is recognised as a key skill set for the 21st century learner. Whilst computational thinking can be a component of many subjects, Computer Science is particularly well-placed to deliver it. Computational thinking can be categorised under five broad headings:

Pattern Recognition: The ability to notice similarities or common differences that will help us makes predictions or lead us to shortcuts.

Decomposition: Breaking down a task so that we can clearly explain a process to another person or to a computer.

Algorithms: The ability to develop a step-by-step strategy for solving a problem.

Generalisation: Realising that a solution to one problem may be used to solve a whole range of related problems

Abstraction: Seeing a problem and its solution at many levels of detail and generalising the information that is necessary. Teachers are encouraged to emphasise, exemplify and make these aspects of computational thinking explicit (at an appropriate level) wherever there are opportunities to do so throughout teaching and learning.

Breaking the code encapsulates all these categories!

Education Scotland Creative Portal Partner

Breaking the Code: Self-working Principles

A self-working magic trick means that if the performer follows a well defined set of instructions then the trick will work all by itself. No sleight of hand necessary! Behind every self-working card routines lies some amazing components of computer science and maths.

When we break down the mechanics of a self-working magic trick we can create a well-defined list of instructions that make it work. This process can be compared to algorithms.

When we perform a self-working trick, we would expect it to work 100% of the time. This same principle applies to the applications we use and take for granted. Think about the program that is used to operate the landing gear on an aircraft. This can be compared to testing.

Using self working magic tricks, we can explore patterns, logic and algebra. We can use performance to demonstrate knowledge and understanding. We can break down problems and analyse solutions that can be transferable.

Unlike a real professional magician these magic tricks can be used to develop computational thinking and knowledge in computer science. Breaking the Code is supported with a range of further learning workshops (available for teachers) as outlined in the eBook, Computer Science FX.


Creativity is just one way in which we can encourage the increasingly recognised skill of higher order thinking. A big part of being creative is looking for new ways of doing things within whatever activity you’re involved in. Creative thinking requires manipulation of ideas to transform their meaning. It involves understanding the relationships and paradoxes of the different ways we learn and has an important role to play in learning and teaching. Breaking the Code is a creative approach to computer science!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”.

Albert Einstein

“Creativity is the greatest gift of human intelligence. The more complex the world becomes, the more creative we need to be to meet its challenges”.

Sir Ken Robinson

“Behind every self-working card effect lies some interesting maths and ideas used in computer science. When we break down the mechanics of a self-working magic trick we can create a well-defined list of instructions that make it work. This can be compared to algorithms that are used to design computer programs.”

Professor Peter McOwan

“To foster creativity teachers must encourage learners to think laterally and make associations between things that are not usually connected. They must be able to reinterpret and apply their learning in new contexts, look at things from different points of view and experiment with alternative approaches to solving problems. Teachers must help learners to see possibilities and challenges and all of these skills can be taught”.

Education Scotland

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