Computational thinking

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1 Introduction

Computational thinking builds on the power and limits of computing processes, whether they are executed by a human or by a machine. Computational methods and models give us the courage to solve problems and design systems that no one of us would be capable of tackling alone. Computational thinking confronts the riddle of machine intelligence: What can humans do better than computers? and What can computers do better than humans? Most fundamentally it addresses the question: What is computable? Today, we know only parts of the answers to such questions.

Computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists. To reading, writing, and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child's analytical ability. Just as the printing press facilitated the spread of the three Rs, what is appropriately incestuous about this vision is that computing and computers facilitate the spread of computational thinking.

Computational thinking involves solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior, by drawing on the concepts fundamental to computer science. Computational thinking includes a range of mental tools that reflect the breadth of the field of computer science. (Janette M Wing, Computational Thinking, 2006.)


According to Judy O’Connell (slides, Stuart University), Computational thinking (CT) is a problem-solving process that includes (but is not limited to) the following characteristics:

  • Formulating problems in a way that enables us to use a computer and other tools to help solve them.
  • Logically organizing and analyzing data
  • Representing data through abstractions such as models and simulations
  • Automating solutions through algorithmic thinking (a series of ordered steps)
  • Identifying, analyzing, and implementing possible solutions with the goal of achieving the most efficient and effective combination of steps and resources
  • Generalizing and transferring this problem solving process to a wide variety of problems

2 Links

3 Bibliography

  • Repenning, A., Webb, D., Ioannidou, A., Scalable Game Design and the Development of a Checklist for Getting Computational Thinking into Public Schools, The 41st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, SIGCSE 2010, (Milwaukee, WI), ACM Press. PDF