A Brief Guide To Introducing Algorithms To Kids

A Brief Guide To Introducing Algorithms To Kids

Programming is becoming almost a part of the basic literacy. A time will soon crop up where along with reading and writing, you will be automatically expected to know how to program a computer. Hence, all those pre-schooling programs such as “Scratch programming for kids” and others are gaining loads of grounds in recent times.

Right, now let’s get back to our original topic now: “Algorithms.” We more or less know that algorithms are part and parcel of computer programming. If you have no idea of a programming algorithm, you just won’t be able to write the code in any way whatsoever.

It’s therefore advisable to introduce kids to algorithms from a very early so that they can grasp the basics of programming that will be soon to follow. Here are a few tips that can come in handy for this purpose of yours.

First things first: Explain the term “algorithms” to the kids at the start

What is the basic definition of algorithms? You need to make your kids aware of that first.

An algorithm is nothing but a set of step by step instructions through which one can solve a certain problem or complete a certain task.”

A computer program or a code (written in ANY programming language) is based on a universal algorithm which serves to be the basic underlying logic of the problem.

Encourage your kids to think of algorithms from the general sense of view

Algorithms are everywhere. Any step-by-step solution to a problem represents an algorithm. So encourage your kids to think of algorithms from a generals sense of view involving a real life problem. Here’s an example:

[This algorithm is based on a kid’s morning routine. How should he get to school? That’s the problem that we are trying to solve through this algorithm. Pretty basic.]

1. Start

2. Get up from sleep.

3. Take a bath.

4. Dress up.

5. Eat breakfast.

6. If weather’s sunny

Walk to school.

Else

Go to school with parents.

7. End.

So you see it’s definitely one of the most basic algorithms of the lot but you can start with things like these at the initial stages and then gradually move on to more complex real life problems with the passage of time.

Start with the most basic algorithms that are actually related to computer programming in general

Note: You should introduce kids to programming-based algorithms only after they know how to write an algorithm from the general point of view (refer to the point made above).

Some of the most basic algorithms in this aspect can be related to basic operational arithmetic consisting of additions, subtractions, multiplications or divisions. Here’s an example for you.

[The algorithm depicted below can be used to find out the sum of three numbers taken as a user input.]

1. Start

2. Declare variables a, b, c, sum. /*Variable a, b, c represents the three numbers and “sum” represents the summation of the three.*/

3. Take the input from the users in variables a, b and c.

4. Perform addition and store the result in “sum.”

Sum= a+b+c

5. Display result “sum.”

6. Stop

Make your kids aware of the decent techniques involved in writing an algorithm

The practice of writing a good algorithm is based on a few techniques. Your kids should be aware of the same. Some of the important ones are:

  • The different inputs and the outputs of an algorithm must be defined separately.

  • Each and every step of an algorithm must be written in an unambiguous manner, in simple, clear and lucid English.

  • An algorithm should have the “best” solution to a problem. Take a special note at the word “best.” Your children should remember that while writing the algorithm.

  • An algorithm should NOT have any technical computer code.

Last but not the least, encourage your kids to write their own algorithms

Improvisation can sometimes be the best form of learning. Therefore, urge your kids to improve pre-written algorithms. Encourage them to find simpler solutions (if they can) to problems through their own modified versions of the pre-written algorithms.

A step like that can go a long way indeed.

 

Algorithmic thinking is an integral part of STEM education. Hence, it’s important that you pay special attention to them if you really want your kid to do well in the long run. With that, we’ll sign off finally for the day. Hope you had a good and useful read.  

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