Can you hear me now? Tales from a Cisco voice instructor

Apr 7 2010   8:12PM GMT

Binary Game – Trying to Make Learning Binary Fun

Dave Bateman Dave Bateman Profile: Dave Bateman

If someone were to ask me to make a list of the top ten fun things to do, math would not make the list. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t make the list no matter how long it was. I have never like math – nor been good at it. I’m not sure if I didn’t like math because I wasn’t good at it or I wasn’t good at it because I didn’t like it. I guess it really doesn’t matter. Now I find myself in front of a classroom teaching people how to convert decimal to binary and hex. Funny how things turn out sometimes. I say all this to let you know that I understand the struggle people have grasping decimal to binary conversion.  I have seen many eyes glaze over as I was explaining it. The most frustrating part is when the student finally gets it only to see it slip from their grasp into a pool of confusion. I wish I was here to say that I have found the secret to making  learning binary easy, but I haven’t. Different things work for different people. You just need to stick to it until you understand it.

Once you truly understand it, you will never really lose it. However, if you are learning it in preparation for a certification such as CCNA, you not only need to be able to do decimal to binary conversion, you need to be able to do it fast. The number one reason I hear people say they failed their CCNA is because it took them too long to do the subnetting. Since subnetting requires you to convert decimal to binary, you need to be able to do it quickly. The only way to improve your speed is to practice.

I know sitting down at the table with a list of 100 decimal numbers and converting them to binary each night doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. How about we make a game out of it. Well, we don’t have to because Cisco already did. It’s called the Binary Game. Currently, you can play it online at Cisco’s Learning Network. You will need a CCO account to access this page, so you might have to sign up if you don’t already have one. There are also plans to make it a game for the iPhone and Ipod Touch.

The game is kind of like Tetris meets flash cards. Rows of binary numbers appear, and you need to clear the rows before the screen fills up. It starts with a single row and slowly adds additional rows. The longer you are able to keep the screen from filling, the faster the rows start to appear. At the end of each row is a box. If the box is empty you need to enter the decimal number that is displayed in the binary row. If the box has a number in it, you need to set the binary number so that it is equal to the decimal number shown. The concept is pretty simple and somewhat engaging. I’m not saying it will drag you away from Call of Duty, but if you have to study binary, this beats anything I have run across so far.

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