What is computational thinking and how do we use it

Katrine Kraft Hansen,
Marketing Assistant
Copenhagen, Denmark

You might think that computational thinking has something to do with computer science or being tech-savvy, but it actually doesn’t. Computational thinking is an approach to problem-solving that involves critical and logical thinking in order to solve problems, the same way a computer would.

Computational thinking is made up of four main components: decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithmic thinking:

  • Decomposition is the task of breaking a big problem into smaller, more manageable problems.
  • Pattern recognition is finding similarities within the problem and among other problems, using what has worked before to help you solve the task at hand.
  • Abstraction is focusing on only the important details of the problem and ignoring other, lesser important details.
  • Algorithmic thinking is the ability to develop a step-by-step guide to solving the problem or a set of rules to solve it.

Computational thinking isn’t just used by computer scientists and programmers. It’s used by people in all kinds of professions, like doctors, carpenters, teachers, and artists.

You’re most likely also using computational thinking subconsciously on a daily basis. Just think about your process when you’re baking cupcakes on a Sunday afternoon. You break the recipe into smaller steps you do one at a time, and you know to bake them slightly longer than the recipe calls for because you’ve had to do that before. You also know chocolate chips aren’t a vital ingredient in your cupcakes, so you skip that step because you don’t have any in your pantry, and you know it’s a good idea to start preheating the oven before you pour the mix into the cupcake cases.

Working with KUBO is also good training in thinking computationally. The exercises in the Coding License are designed to encourage students to break big tasks into smaller steps and to draw on their past experiences with the robot to solve new problems. Students also have to think about what TagTiles to use for a certain exercise and which ones to leave, and some exercises require the students to write down their solution to the problem as a guide for their classmates, teacher, or their future selves.

Whether it’s for baking, coding, or other tasks, computational thinking is a great tool to have in your toolbox. Teaching kids to approach problems in a computational manner will greatly benefit their development and enable them to solve problems in the most efficient way.

How do you use computational thinking on a daily basis? And how do you incorporate it into your classroom? Leave your thoughts in the comment section!