The truth tables behind calculators

Understand and visualize their logic with Minecraft and dominoes: This is what this pre-university week, organized by the EPFL Education Outreach Department together with the Mathematics institute, offers to high school students.

A calculator is a reassuring companion during math tests. But how does it work? And how can we be sure that it displays the correct result?

During this pre-university week, the participants will answer such questions while designing a calculator.

To do so, they will learn how to use binary code. This code enables the transformation of information into 0s and 1s, a language that machines understand. Like small computers, the calculators transcribe our usual decimal numbers into binary numbers. And this is how 13=1101 and 1011+1101=24.

In order to design a calculator, the participants will have to use their logic and skills, while developing algebra and computer science concepts (variables, binary system or truth tables) to be able to align blocks, activate levers and finally understand how their TI-30X works.

Practical information

When and where
April 8-11, 2024 at EPFL (Lausanne)
The exact times have not yet been determined, but the activities will take place in a time frame from 9:00 to 17:00; a detailed program with the final schedule will be sent to the participants.
High school students who have passed their 1st year.
No preliminary knowledge of logic or computer science, nor any experience in playing Minecraft are required.
Course in French and English
No specific material required, neither laptop nor Minecraft licence.
Teaching staff
Orane Pouchon and David Strütt, EPFL Mathematics institute, accompanied by several EPFL students.
CHF 50.- (excluding VAT).
Lunch on the first day will be provided. Lunch on the other days and any accommodation costs are at the charge of the participants.
We recommend that interested high school students fill out this questionnaire before registering, in order to assess whether this pre-university week is right for them.

Online registration is closed.

Each student may register for one pre-university week per school year.
Exceptions may be considered if sufficient places are available.
Please contact the Education Outreach Department for any question: [email protected].