At The Core is excited to share a guest blog from Raj Shah, Founder of Math Plus Academy. His mission is to introduce kids and adults to the wonders of mathematics. In addition to Math Plus Academy, he also contributes his time and energy to the Columbus Math Teachers’ Circle and the Julia Robinson Math Festival. In addition, Raj is a charter member of The Global Math Project.
Computer code is fundamental to how the modern world works. Today, code is embedded in surprising places like cars, streetlights, tires, and even roads to name just a few.
Our children need to learn the basics of computer programming, so they can make sense of the world they live in. Technological fluency should be regarded as a fundamental part of a well-rounded education. (I’ve been advocating for this since 2011.)
Even if you don’t become a programmer, knowing how code works can help you make sense of the world around you, and it has many additional benefits too.
A New Way of Thinking
As a child in the late 70s, I learned a programming language called BASIC. Maybe you learned it too? Understanding BASIC gave me the foundation to quickly learn other programming languages over the years. While I never became a software engineer, learning to code taught me a whole new way of thinking.
I discovered the importance of taking time to understand a problem deeply before trying to program a solution. I learned how to break large problems into very small pieces that a computer could execute. These important problem-solving skills are used in all areas of everyday life.
Learning to program teaches you a new and powerful way of thinking. You learn how computers really work and “think.” Soon after, you begin to see everyday problems through a different lens. You see the possibilities of how a computer can be used to solve your problems.
Once you learn how to code you can:
• Build interactive websites
• Make smartphone apps and games
• Solve problems
• Launch a billion-dollar business like Facebook
• And so much more!
Coding Is Fun!
Many people think programming is boring because you stare at a computer screen all day.
But, I see coding as the 21st century analog of woodworking. It’s a craft where one can use your imagination to create something completely new. While software isn’t tangible like wooden furniture, you can interact with it and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
I’ve watched hundreds of kids learn to code in Math Plus Academy’s classes and camps, and I’m convinced that what they love most is bringing their ideas to fruition. It’s deeply rewarding to plan, design, and execute a program and then to watch it work just the way you hoped.
Resources For Young Programmers
- Code Master by ThinkFun
A puzzle board game that teaches kids programming skills! I got to play with the prototype last spring, and it was challenging and fun.
Code.org started the Hour of Code movement in 2013. They offer several options to get kids started. Everything runs directly in a web browser so there is nothing to install. I recommend everyone start here. Choose a theme your child enjoys and get going!
For the child that wants to go further, try codeschool.com. You can take courses in Python, HTML, CSS and much more. Python is widely considered an ideal choice for a first “real” language to learn.
All around us, coding is a part of our day-to-day lives. Getting our kids to learn how to code not only sets them on a path to understanding technology; but also, gives them the gift of problem solving—getting their brains to work in new ways.
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