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November 4, 2021

Tips for Breeding Computational Thinking Onto Children

Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.

Computers are becoming part of our day-to-day lifestyle; we use computers in our jobs, school, hospital, and so much more. But have you ever wondered how these complex applications are made? Or how can we motivate our children to develop such applications? Most people think that programming is all about sitting in front of a laptop and writing a bunch of code numbers, symbols, and numbers that direct a computer on how to carry out a process. However, this is not the case.

The codes being input have a purpose; they are supposed to perform a specific function when run on a compiler. Turning an idea into a program is a part of a programmer’s life that requires computational thinking. If a child can master this skill at an early age, then their future as a programmer is set in stone.

Computational thinking

It can be defined as a skill to solve problems. Computational thinking is the skill that programmers apply to create algorithms.

Take, for example, the process of cooking meals. Cooking a single meal requires different steps and procedures. You can split the steps into three portions, preparing the meals’, requirements, cooking the meal, and then serving the meal. However, each step is unique and requires to be handled differently.

For the preparation part, you have to come up with a recipe first for the meal you want to cook. Then get all the required ingredients and the cooking equipment. After that, you have to peel any ingredient that requires peeling or chopping.

Now that the ingredients are ready, it is time to cook. Some might decide to start by adding oil, then onions, followed by tomatoes. However, someone else might choose to start with onions, add the oil, and then add the tomatoes. Also, the ingredients might be different; some might use oils while others use fat since both are efficient.

When the meal is ready, one might decide to serve right away or wait until the food cools off. The serving procedure is also different.

Now imagine being told to write a program that has the instructions for the whole cooking procedure; it sounds like an impossible task, right? Yet, computer science students deal with such situations every day, taking complex algorithms and turning them into executable programs using programming languages such as python, scratch coding, and JS.

Computational thinking has four cornerstones, namely:

  1. Decomposition involves the modularization of a problem or dividing the issue into smaller, more manageable tasks.
  2. Pattern recognition – this involves finding the links between problems.
  3. Abstraction – this involves focusing on delicate issues and leaving any irrelevant information out.
  4. Algorithm design – involves coming up with a stepwise solution to any problem.

How to teach the skill of computational thinking

The cornerstones that we discussed earlier are the foundation of teaching this skill. Incorporated with programming languages, these cornerstones create solutions to real-world problems.

1. Decomposition

Decomposition can be taught in a simple manner. All you have to do is teach the children ways to reduce the complexity of a question by creating multiple tasks that are simple to handle.

For example, teach them ways to break down their assignments subject-wise and topic-wise. They can then work on the more straightforward and less complicated tasks without a hassle.

Once they master this skill, then they will be one step closer to achieving computational thinking.

2. Pattern recognition

It is another skill that you can manifest into children easily by twisting their everyday activities.

Once a child sees a table, they immediately recognize it even though that might be their first time seeing the table. You can implement the following questions to breed the skill of pattern recognition when such a case occurs:

  • What made you recognize the table?
  • Do you know the contrast between a couch and a table?
  • How about a bed and a table?

Such question sends their brains spinning trying to make connections.

3. Abstraction

To teach abstraction in children, you have to focus on letting them understand the necessary and unnecessary details. This practice should be done every time a child asks for help with homework.

4. Algorithm

Developing an algorithm involves assembling all the other steps to build a stepwise procedure that is not redundant.

To teach this skill to children, you require to use simple examples such as a stepwise procedure for brushing your teeth. Go through each step, including all the necessary aspects, such as the upwards-downward motion of brushing your teeth.

Once the children master these four skills, computation thinking will be easy for them.

Conclusion

Coming up with processes that solve real-world situations is not an easy feat; however, once the children master the skill of computational thinking, this process will be a lot easier.

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