Computational Thinking

by Satabdi Basu, April 1, 2019

image of a pile of cubes

MPACT is not restricted to only math—we also address thinking skills for computer science, and spatial reasoning, a gatekeeper to STEM. Today, we’ll talk about computational thinking, an important aspect of computer science.

In today’s increasingly digital world where computing is pervasive in all spheres of life, computational thinking (CT) is considered a fundamental skill for all students, just like reading and writing. CT refers to the way humans think about setting up a problem and its solution so that a computer can do the work. Yet, CT does not need to involve a computer—it can be fostered through unplugged logical thinking and problem-solving activities. When students are engaged in CT, they could engage in any number of activities. Among them are:

  • creating models and data visualizations
  • breaking a bigger problem into smaller, easier-to-solve parts
  • creating algorithms (a series of ordered steps for solving a problem)
  • abstracting—deciding which parts of a problem are critical and which can be set aside
  • recognizing and using patterns

Our project fosters CT through unplugged mathematical puzzles and the creation of 3D digital designs using Tinkercad—an online tool for 3D modeling, the step before 3D printing. For example, before students create their own designs, they find the missing pieces in an old cube puzzle and engage in algorithmic thinking and abstraction. When students design the missing puzzle pieces in Tinkercad, they may decompose the design problem into single cubes, or clusters of cubes, and then combine them to create the missing pieces.

This initial activity is only the start of developing students’ computational thinking—the rest of our design units take students even further in this topic. More on that in an upcoming blog post.

Image by Philippa Warr and used under Creative Commons 2.0.