Binary with the Finch

The Finch can be used to represent a message in binary!

Lesson Level


Programming Language



Math, Science


4-5, 6-8, 9-12

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This project meets Next Generation Science Standards associated with PS4-C Information Technologies and Instrumentation. The specific standards are 4-PS4-3, MS-PS4-3, and HS-PS4-2. Also, binary numbers can be used to help students gain a greater understanding of place value (Common Core math standards 4.NBT.A and 5.NBT.A). At the middle and high school levels, this project is a good opportunity to emphasize the use of functions (in Scratch, custom blocks) in a program and to relate these to mathematical functions (8.F.A and HSF.IF.B).

This Finch activity is based on Worksheet Activity: E-mail and Modems from

At the lowest level, computers represent information in the binary (base 2) number system. In binary, numbers are represented using only zeros and ones. You can lean more about binary numbers in this video.

The Finch can be used to represent a message in binary! Choose a number that you want to display and convert it to binary. You can represent the number with beeps – the Finch should make a high-pitched beep for 1 and a low-pitched beep for 0. Can a friend decode your number?

You can also use binary numbers to represent letters of the alphabet. Each letter can correspond to a decimal number from 1 to 26, and you can represent those decimal numbers with five-digit binary numbers (A = 1 = 00001, B = 2 = 00010, etc.). Use the Finch to transmit a word in binary. See if a friend can decode your word!

Extension: Use the color of the Finch’s beak to transmit a message in binary.