Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Updated: Apr 23, 2018

I love mathematics. It was actually my love for math that compelled me to study computer science in college. It was thanks to a shared type of thinking, computational thinking. But what is computational thinking? According to the team at Google, there are four major factors in computational thinking. First is DECOMPOSITION, which is all about breaking complicated problems down into manageable pieces. Second is PATTERN RECOGNITION, which is the process of finding relationships between these pieces to make accurate predictions. Third is ABSTRACTION, which identifies the principles that generate these patterns. And finally, ALGORITHM DESIGN, which is about developing step-by-step solutions to these problems.

So how can we implement computational thinking into mathematics? I think we already do! Let's look at how these concepts apply to mathematics by examining how they can be used with an equation. Decomposition let's one look at an equation in pieces, which allows to it to be manipulated and solved. Pattern recognition allows one to understand the relationship between variables in the equation. Abstraction allows one to use variables instead of just hard numbers, so the equation can be applicable in multiple scenarios. And algorithms design, which would determine exactly how you are going manipulate both sides to solve the equation.

In my pursuit to create activities and lessons which develop computational thinking skills, I have been fascinated with the role mathematics are used in both games and magic tricks. These should be topics that will catch students attention and should keep them engaged in the activity. I am almost finished with my 'Mathematic Magic' activity, in which the teacher preforms a card trick and analyzes it mathematically to show why it will always work. After that, I'm developing an activity based on 'The Game of Nim', which can be broken down so that, if you know how it works, you will always win. Apart from that, I have a few ideas regarding pathfinding and sorting algorithms. I'm excited to continue development and hope to engage students with a new type of thinking!

Additional Resource on Computational Thinking:

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