How does someone know what to code? When you think of coding, what do you picture? Most likely, you think of someone in glasses glued to computer screens, punching out symbols at frantic speeds.
How do these people know what to write? How can a kid learn how to turn their ideas into lines of code? This is where algorithmic thinking comes in.
What is Algorithmic Thinking?
Algorithmic thinking is a skill for a layered approach to solving problems. Imagine, for instance, you want to make a sandwich. Although it sounds simple, the process, however, involves several steps. Thus, you may break down the task into the following parts: determine what stack you want; arrange your fillings; and close up.
Sounds straightforward, right? However, the process can also be a lot more complex. You might want to decide what type of bread, what vegetables, how much dressing, etc., you want in your sandwich.
This simple process can be converted into a computer program. The art of taking similar processes and converting them into lines of code is called algorithmic thinking.
Algorithmic thinking provides a framework for converting ideas into computer-intelligible lines of code.
Steps to Algorithmic Thinking
1. Understand the parts
Possibly the most important part of problem-solving is understanding what the problem or task consists of. Even in day-to-day activities, it is very possible to introduce young kids to breaking tasks into manageable parts. For example, you take the process of getting ready for bed and break it down into parts: change to pajamas, brush teeth, switch off the lights, etc. As kids understand that processes contain different parts, they become more adept at the decomposition of various tasks.
2. Recognize the patterns
Kids are already doing a lot of pattern recognition. When they see a car, they recognize it as a car. You can further develop their pattern recognition skills by helping them understand how they are doing pattern recognition. So, for instance, you can ask what all cars have in common? What is the difference between a car and a truck? The more kids can recognize commonalities and figure out differences, the better they become at pattern recognition, a fundamental aspect of algorithmic thinking.
3. Ignore irrelevant aspects
Pattern recognition sets the foundation for this. For example, you can probe your kid further on what aspects of a car aren’t essential for its designation as a car. Ignoring irrelevant aspects is an important critical thinking skill. Video games are also great at helping to keep the focus on the relevant aspects of a quest and ignoring unimportant parts. What we recognize today as hacking stems from people who have honed the skills of ignoring irrelevant aspects and stripping down problems to the barest minimum needed.
4. Design a step-by-step solution
In the first three steps, kids identify steps, recognize patterns, and learn to ignore irrelevant details. The last step, algorithmic design, involves taking the three steps and converting them into an actionable list of actions. When you think of your kid getting ready for bed, you can teach to understand what’s important in the process, what can be ignored, and design an action list that is validly creative and authentically theirs.
Algorithmic thinking is key to becoming adept at programming. The approach is not only important for programmers but practically applicable to any problem. Whether it’s solving automation problems or engineering better ways to solve health issues, most of the new problems are all about incorporating algorithmic thinking into real-world problems. You can start your kid on the path to mastery of algorithmic thinking today.
Geeklama offers online coding courses for kids that teach algorithmic thinking. Take a look at our courses and curriculum, or get more information by contacting our team.