Algorithms in computer science and math for kids. How to understand them?

Math can be a nightmare for any kid who doesn’t realize it’s simpler than they think. When in middle school and high school, we suffered along with our kids trying to understand a new formula their teacher just taught them. And we get into a crisis when, as parents, we must explain what an algorithm is.

The key to reducing the amount of stress in our children is to show them that these terms, exercises, and tools are excellent, exciting, and engaging. Several gamified methodologies make algorithms easy to understand for kids. Have you heard about Montessori, for example?

But how do you teach your children what an algorithm means if you don’t know yourself? Well, the primary intention of this article is to help you do just that. We’ll take you through the principles involved so you can feel confident in explaining algorithms to your kids.

An interesting thing to try is to remove the algorithm concept from the world of math and move it into a more appealing field to your children. For example, when your kids are learning how to create their very own app, they will understand what an algorithm is in coding… or when they are learning the basics of the Scratch programming language, they will naturally comprehend what algorithms in programming are. That way, they’ll be more interested in the subject, and thus more effective.

But, what is an algorithm? How would you define this word? And, how can you apply algorithms in your everyday life? In this article, we’ll show you where mathematical algorithms are turned into algorithms for kids.

Because, believe it or not… coding can improve your kids’ math skills.

IN SIMPLE TERMS: WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM?

Describing an algorithm in simple words is not as complicated as one might think. In computer science, programming, and math, an algorithm is a sequence of instructions where the main goal is to solve a specific problem by performing a particular action or computation.

In other words, an algorithm is an unambiguous specification for processing data and for doing calculations, among many other tasks.

An excellent way to explain an algorithm is to say whoever creates that specific algorithm is setting the game’s rules. So, you can explain to your kids that when they make an algorithm, they decide what will happen—an excellent skill to have in life.

Tell your children that algorithms are the instructions that define how things work. Including when reacting to our actions (especially in computer science).

So, when a person or machine designs an algorithm, they’re building all potential reactions that will happen when we do A, or B, or C in an app.

You might have heard about algorithms in the news.

For example, Meta’s — the company behind Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp — platforms show you certain posts and not others based on that platform’s algorithms and their relation with your specific activities.

For instance, clicking “like” on someone’s picture on Facebook will cause its algorithm to show you more of that person’s posts in your timeline.

Therefore, algorithms are in constant relation with other values.

According to the site WhatIs.com, an algorithm in math and computer science is a procedure or formula for solving a problem, usually recurrent, by conducting a sequence of specified actions in relation to it. A computer program can be viewed as an elaborate algorithm.

Let’s analyze everything we’ve just mentioned. And we’ll take into consideration how 21st-century skills are becoming holistic solutions for our children’s education. We can conclude that understanding how algorithms work will help them strengthen their problem-solving abilities. This will drastically increase their opportunities for success in the workforce of tomorrow.

EXPLAINING AN ALGORITHM TO YOUR KIDS

Tell your children they can have the power to create whatever they want to create. Let them know that if they imagine a game or an app they would like to play, they can create it. Help them understand that everything is possible. And that they can turn any dream they might have into a reality.

When things are explained in a fun, engaging, and personal way, it will automatically create a genuine willingness to learn in your kids.

You can quote Uncle Ben, from Spider-Man, to make them understand something pretty crucial about algorithms and what they can do with them: “With great power comes great responsibility”. If they want to create their very own app, for example, they should know how to give their app the right instructions in a coherent, consistent, and well-built way.

An algorithm is a series of steps you give a computer program in order to solve a problem or achieve a task. It’s as simple as that. However, it is essential to input all instructions precisely, as machines get “confused” otherwise.

If you are looking for inspiration to explain algorithms to your kids, watch this excellent and straightforward video created by the BBC.

Are your kids good at brushing their teeth? Well, then this short video might help:

ALGORITHMS EVERYWHERE: IN MATH AND COMPUTER SCIENCE

Algorithms are everywhere and are present in our lives every day. They have a more significant presence in math and computer science, but they exist in other places, too.

For example, when introducing the concept of algorithms to your children, discuss meal recipes. Remember when we mentioned the similarities between coding and cooking? Now, everything will make more sense.

A recipe is like an algorithm in that it’s a number of steps (written on a box or included in a book) that achieve a specific task. For instance, you’d follow those steps to take a box mix and make a vanilla cake out of it.

Another great example could be a piece of furniture from IKEA. Are you getting a general idea already?

ALGORITHMS IN MATH

According to ThoughtCo and author Deb Russell, an algorithm in math is a procedure, a description of a set of steps that can be used to solve a mathematical computation. Algorithms are used in many STEM fields, but the most common example is a step-by-step procedure used in long divisions.

The process of solving a mathematical problem such as, “What is 73 divided by 3” could be achieved by doing the following algorithm:

  • How many times does 3 go into 7?
  • The answer is 2
  • How many are left over? 1
  • Put the 1(ten) in front of the 3.
  • How many times does 3 go into 13?
  • The answer is 4, with a remainder of one.
  • And of course, the answer is 24 with a remainder of 1

An algorithm in math is not that different from an algorithm in computer science or app development. Both have the same definition, description, and significance.

Creating their own app will help your kids become better in math, increase their creativity levels, and give them tools to be better prepared for a future we don’t know much about.

WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM IN COMPUTER SCIENCE?

As we’ve mentioned before, an algorithm is when you tell your computer not only what to do, but also how to do it. We assume that now it is a bit clearer. But the main goal is to get the job done. And an algorithm is an essential formula used to make sure this happens.

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ALGORITHMIC THINKING: A SKILL FOR KIDS

Nurturing your kids with 21st-century skills is extremely important to ensure their future success. In previous articles, we have discussed creativity, teamwork, and we’ve gone in-depth with problem-solving. But we don’t want you to forget about algorithmic thinking. Strengthening this skill will enable your children to fully comprehend what algorithms mean and how they can use this way of thinking in their everyday life.

By developing their algorithmic thinking, they’ll value the importance of the process and not only of the result itself. They will also understand how important each step is when designing, creating, and developing their very own projects in life.

This goes way beyond your kids comprehending a standard algorithm or giving them mathematical examples of algorithms for kids. This is actually about the values of truly applying how algorithms work to build their success.

Suppose you feel that everything we’ve mentioned before is too much for you as a parent. In that case, you can show your kids both the video we’ve embedded before and also this next video, a video that describes what an algorithm is simply and precisely. That being said, you won’t see all the fantastic examples of algorithms we just showed you here.

ALGORITHMS MADE FUN, SO YOUR KIDS CAN WRITE THEIR OWN ONE!

But how can your kids really understand the value of algorithms? Coding can help! When your kids learn how to code, they will be gaining valuable 21st-century skills. These will enable them to interact with society, with the world, and with the workforce of the future from an advantageous place.

Learning how to code can be fun and engaging. Today, by enrolling your children in one of Tekkie Uni’s coding courses, they’ll be one step away from creating their very own app, designing their very own YouTube content, or developing their own games in Scratch. All of this while strengthening their algorithmic thinking ability.

Are you ready to give your kids the most useful gift of their lives? Make sure they are prepared for the future. Give your kids the present of coding today.

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