By Codomo Singapore

How To Teach Programming With This Card Game

The Genesis

The only reason we came up with the idea of creating a table top card game that teaches programming concepts is solely due to our personal experience. In our freshman year in university, everyone had to take an introduction to computer science module. Most of the students had never done programming before, it is a completely new world to many of us. The struggle was real - countless hours of debugging only to realize a semicolon was missing, being absolutely clueless of what the lecturer was rambling about in the lecture hall, and of course dozing off in class to our teacher's monotonous lullaby of programming concepts. 

It was extremely tough for me, it took a lot of determination and perseverance to finally get a good sense of what was going on. Thankfully, I had friends who have had programming experience and they helped me a great deal. They took time out to patiently explain the logic and concepts to me, debugged the code with me, and whenever I had problems, they're just a table away. I am truly grateful to them for helping me get through those merciless late nights.

That experience made me realize how important it is to have somebody there with you when learning gets tough. It is that feeling of accomplishment and achievement together that creates the bond between friends. We asked ourselves if there is a way to exemplify the way my friends helped me, letting kids learn with their friends, instead of facing the computer all alone, puzzled and frustrated overspending more than 1 hour trying to make the code work.

Of course, thanks to child-friendly drag-and-drop programming platforms such as Scratch, MIT AppInventor, Microbit, alongside many others, children can now learn programming logic without the hassle mentioned above. They learn the logic well enough to create apps, animations, and interactive hardware projects with the new skills they learnt. They are empowered to create something they call their own. Even though you can share and remix projects with other kids around the world, we felt that the social element, which plays a huge part in learning, is still lacking in these platforms. 

We began to brainstorm ways to make learning fun, sociable, and impactful to the innovators of tomorrow. The obvious answer was definitely through a computer science game. When it comes to playing, nobody ever feels like they are learning! Next, we have to decide what form does the game takes on? We knew we wanted a simpler, better, and more visual way to learn such an abstract field of study that is essentially made up of 0s and 1s.

However, we did not want the game to become another mobile application where kids have to stare at their iPads to play. We wanted the human connection and emotions you get from playing a game. That is how we arrive at the decision of creating a tabletop card game that is highly interactive and thrilling and at the same time allows anyone above age 6 to grasp fundamental programming concepts, with #noscreensattached!


Prototype and Testing

Even though Potato Pirates is a coding card game designed with kids in mind, we wanted to ensure that it is attractive to people of all ages. From classrooms to family nights, our card game is an activity suitable for any setting. Children, parents, and grandparents can all have fun together- no one is left out! To achieve that, other than being fun, it needs to be addictive and the educational aspect has to be substantial and progressive.


For the past 18 months, we have worked through more than 20 iterations of the game to ensure that the concepts brought across are straightforward and directly applicable to any coding language or platform. We tested it with many different audiences every step of the way. Starting with our own computer science professors, to freshman students who were taking the introduction to computer science module, geeks, parents, grandparents, children attending coding camps, K-12 educators, and much more.

Through multiple rounds of testing, we altered many components and aspects of the game. With over close to 20 iterations, we finally agreed on a version of a coding card game that was comprehensive in terms of concepts taught, but also wickedly fun. In order to evaluate the effectiveness and the impact of our computer science game, we came up with 2 quizzes for participants to fill up before and after playing the game.

Diagnostic Quiz

The first quiz is the diagnostic quiz, it consists of various multiple-choice questions on the basics concepts of programming. The objective is to assess the participant's knowledge in programming prior to any exposure to the computer science card game. This allows us to compare the results with the formative quiz that will be done after the session.


Formative Quiz

After playing the coding card game, participants will be given a quick 10-minute debrief on what they have learnt in the computer science card game and how it all relates to computer programming. They will understand the terminology and concepts covered in just 1 round of the coding game. For the formative quiz, other than fundamental concepts of programming, we also included application-style questions in the context of the game.

 Results and Statistics

The quiz was completed by over 100 play-testers that we have engaged over the course of 4 months. The results were promising and encouraging. The coding card game not only eased the learning curve of picking up computer programming, participants' interest, and confidence in learning programming also rose by approximately 80%.

 infographic on effectiveness of potato pirates game in raising interest and increasing confidence of players in coding and computer science

All in all, we are ecstatic with the results so far and we believe that our product creates a genuine impact on kids' perception of learning. We can't wait for you to try Potato Pirates, rated as one of the best STEM gifts on Forbes, it is a perfect birthday or Christmas gift for young children, budding gaming families, or that awesome geeky friend of yours. Before you go, check out our new coding card game Potato Pirates 3: Battlechips here.

Interested in our game design and development process? Read more about how we design and create this card game.