Learning to code is becoming much more prevalent with kids in recent times given advancements in technology. Coding is almost behind everything. Hence, the knowledge of coding and problem-solving in the present era is an essential and useful skill for kids of all ages.
When we are teaching kids to be problem solvers, we give them a skill set that is an important factor in academic success. Beyond just academics, kids problem-solving skills provide benefits for their future career opportunities, enhance their confidence, and help them find possible solutions to the basic problems they encounter on a daily basis.
Coding and Problem-Solving
One of the most fun ways to teach problem-solving is through coding. Coding for kids develops brainstorming, creative thinking, and decision-making skills, all of which are necessary for solving a variety of problems.
As kids get older, there are several ways these skills can be taught, but a significant advantage of coding is that it offers the opportunity to introduce these skills at an even younger age. This gives kids a significant head start on their problem-solving skills.
Whether dealing with a coding challenge or their own problem in the real world, planning is a crucial part of the process. Kids learn to figure out their goals and where they are starting from. From there, they brainstorm ideas for potential solutions and determine which ones offer the best solution.
It all sounds like a lot, but this is why the planning phase is so important to a kid’s problem-solving abilities. Once you have a solution planned out, it’s time to talk about decomposition.
When kids play with Legos, they often have instruction manuals where complicated building processes have been broken down into several simpler steps suitable for all ages. An important task for programmers is similarly decomposing long lines of codes into steps that are small enough for a computer to understand.
Learning this process is another goal of coding for kids. Decomposition is what eventually allows them to build more and more complicated projects – including games or complex computer programs.
Decomposition is also a crucial skill that can be applied outside of coding. Whether your kid is writing an essay, solving a complicated math problem, or planning a meal, they will benefit from the improved ability to break the task down into smaller chunks that can be addressed in a less overwhelming manner.
With decomposition comes another useful skill which is iterative testing.
Iterative testing is the process of testing each step instead of waiting for the whole project to be complete, allowing mistakes to be caught earlier in the process. It’s always better to recognise an error after an hour of code rather than waiting until you have spent days or even weeks on a project.
In the Lego example, when a kid checks whether an individual step was done correctly, verifying that it looks like the image shown and using all the right pieces, they are already doing iterative testing. As they become coders, they are just improving on this process by applying their critical thinking skills to design even better tests.
As with decomposition, iterative testing is readily applicable beyond the world of code. Many goals in life take a long time to reach, but you don’t want to wait until the end to determine whether all is going well. Putting together a desk, training for a marathon, or writing a book are all examples of lengthy tasks that can benefit from the iterative testing skills learned while coding.
What do you do when a programming test fails or when your project is not working correctly? You debug it!
The ability to go from something is wrong to exactly what is wrong is incredibly important in coding and in problem-solving for other fields.
The better a kid understands the previous fundamentals, the easier debugging will be. A well-designed test makes it easy to spot where a bug occurred, and a good understanding of algorithms and their component parts makes it much easier to determine why the bug occurred.
Once a kid knows how to debug software, the real-world applications of that skill are endless. For now, it might mean figuring out why a math problem is not matching the solution. Down the road, careers from plumbing to medicine involve a heavy amount of debugging skills.
- Finding Help
In the 21st century, help is always at your fingertips – you just need to know how to look for it! This is certainly not just a coding skill, as even unplugged activities can benefit from improved research skills.
Learning how to find help will be beneficial whether your kid is looking to solve a specific problem or better understand programming concepts, game design, and other new skills. The real-world applications of this ability are endless.
This is not strictly part of the problem-solving process, but it’s equally important to help kids learn to communicate the results of their problem-solving efforts. Learning to communicate results reinforces the kid’s learning and introduces additional social skills such as empathy, storytelling, and persuasion.
The confidence that comes with communicating your successes is a particularly important outcome. It’s one thing to understand the right answer to, for instance, a math problem. It’s another altogether to be confident in your answer and in your ability to articulate it in front of your peers and others.
Equally important is learning to communicate and problem-solve together with other kids in a group setting. This is a skill that will help in other group projects as well as when working with co-workers in their future careers. Collaborative problem-solving can be learned through regular group coding projects, and another exciting way to enhance teamwork practice can be through kids hackathon events.
In a world that is driven by logic, accuracy, and precision, skills and experience of coding equip kids with key problem-solving and analytical abilities.
“There’s no use talking about the problem unless you talk about the solution.” – Betty Williams