Algorithm March And Ninjas


I already mentioned in a previous post the Japanese kids’ show Pythagora Switch (Pitagora Suitchi, ピタゴラスイッチ) and their awesome Pythagorean devices (Pitagora Sōchi, ピタゴラ装置) made from various common household objects.

As if it couldn’t get any more awesome, the educational show also has a song and dance called the Algorithm March which really ramps up the awesomeness. The song and dance teach young children how to follow directions as they perform a sequence of body movements as they sing along with the song.

It is first performed by Kikuchi Hideki and Yamada Kazunari of the comedy duo Itsumo Kokokara. Then, they have guests such as soccer players, airline workers, and bus drivers performing the dance with them. Even ninjas! See the video clip below! The people line up and each person slowly moves forward while going through each body movement one at a time. The entire line goes through the sequence of steps (thus, algorithm march) as the song repeats.

The sequence of body movements are as follows, with the steps being repeated after finishing the sequence:

  1. One step forward, bend knees while reaching out with arms straight and then return
  2. One step forward, lean back with arms bent back and then return
  3. One step forward, turn around and bow once at waist
  4. Face left, right hand to brow and look around
  5. Face left, one step forward and bend knees, do a breast stroke and return
  6. Bend down and pretend to pick up a chestnut on the ground
  7. One step forward, move arms up and down like you are using a bicycle pump
  8. One step forward, flap arms at sides as if being inflated by the pump

When the entire line properly goes through the sequence of steps, each person becomes intercalated with the people ahead and behind him or her in a fascinating way that reminds me of clockwork or an assembly line:

If the above video clip doesn’t work, click here to view the video or click on the image below:


Obviously, everyone needs to follow the correct sequence of intructions for the Algorithm March to work. So, that is where the algorithm comes in.

Al Gore playing drums

Al Gore rhythm! Get it? Nevermind…

The word algorithm comes from the ninth-century Persian scholar Al-Khwārizmī (Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, عَبْدَالله مُحَمَّد بِن مُوسَى اَلْخْوَارِزْمِي‎). Al-Khwārizmī means native of Kharazm, a city now in modern Uzbekistan. Al-Khwārizmī wrote a treatise in Arabic describing the rules for performing arithmetic using Hindu-Arabic numerals as well as for solving linear and quadratic equations.

His arithmetic technique was called algorism when his work was translated into Latin and it was the Latinized form of Al-Khwārizmī. Incidentally, the word algebra is also from Al-Khwārizmī. It is from al-jabr, one of the ways he used to solve quadratic equations. His name is also the origin of the Spanish guarismo, meaning digit.

The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Chicago has a series of videos from their Everyday Mathematics program. This program is a comprehensive Pre-K through grade 6 mathematics program developed by the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project. The videos demonstrate the use of algorithms in performing the basic arithmetic functions.

Since an algorithm is a step-by-step solution to any problem, they are useful in areas beyond mathematics and computation.

You can express an algorithm either as a sequence of instructions:

South Park Gnomes

The gnomes’ business plan.

Or as a flowchart:

Flowchart for the Rock-Paper-Scissors game.

Flowchart for the Rock-Paper-Scissors game.