Routing and Deadlock

Computer networks are based on passing messages from computer to computer. This sounds simple in principle, but in practice all sorts of contention and bottlenecks can occur.

This activity gives some first hand experience of such issues, with a game for a group of students.

Routing and Deadlock

Activity description (PDF)

Translations and other versions



  • The Routing and Deadlock game in action, from a poster at a conference in Japan

Related Resources

  • An older version of this activity can be downloaded in PDF format here. The content is similar to the current version, but there’s some extra technical information.
  • More activities and lessons:
      • Misha Leder, a Software Engineer at Google has an activity called Message Routing which can be a nice extension activity. Internet works this way – computer networks are connected with each other via routers. Have kids sit at several tables, every child being a server. Have representatives for each tables to act as routers. Kids write messages to each other and routers help routing this messages.
      • eGFI-K12 has a complete lesson plans with a maths flavour Traffic Flow. Designed for advanced high-school algebra students, it can be worked out most easily using Microsoft Excel. Explore traffic engineering further with a competition developed at the University of Toronto, an animated diagram, and a game called Gridlock Buster.

Curriculum Links

Great Principles of Computer Science [info]
  • Coordination
ACM K12 Curriculum [info]
  • Level I (Grades 3–-5) Topic 11: develop a simple understanding of an algorithm
New Zealand Curriculum [info]
    • Technology Level 1: Planning for Practice
      • Outline a general plan to support the development of an outcome, identifying appropriate steps and resources
  • Health and Physical Education Level 1: Identity, sensitivity, and respect
    • Demonstrate respect through sharing and cooperation in groups