Paint by the Numbers

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In this pencil and paper activity, learners work in pairs and simulate how astronomical spacecraft and computers create images of objects in space. Learners will discover the process of how light collected from a space object converts into binary data and reconverts into an image of the object. This lesson guide includes background information, tips, extensions, and blackline masters.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Transparent grid
  • Paper grid
  • Picture of house
  • Pencil


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Stars and Galaxies
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
      • Probability
    • Geometry
      • Plane Geometry
    • Measurement
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Computers
  • Photography and Film/Video


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Vogt, Ed.D., Gregory L.


  • Public domain, ,