Algorithm for kids
An algorithm is a detailed step-by-step instruction set or formula for solving a problem or completing a task. In computing, programmers write algorithms that instruct the computer how to perform a task.
Why are algorithms important?
First things first, algorithms have been around for a very long time indeed. If you’re wondering who created the first algorithm, we’ll need to travel back to the 9th century. Abdullah Muhammad bin Musa al-Khwarizmi, known as the “Father of Algebra,” wrote the first ever algorithm.
The best way to make math fun is to find real-world applications, use engaging learning activities for students, and sprinkle in some fun math facts & games! When learning algorithms, all of these key ingredients are within reach.
Since then, algorithms have become incredibly sophisticated and have a range of applications across aspects of daily life.
When you think of an algorithm in the most general way (not just in regards to computing), algorithms are everywhere. A recipe for making food is an algorithm, the method you use to solve addition or long division problems is an algorithm, and the process of folding a shirt or a pair of pants is an algorithm.
Kids Can Write Their Own Algorithms!
Encourage your child to write out their morning algorithm, or the algorithm for an even simpler task, like brushing their teeth or eating cereal. Without knowing it, they’ll be exploring important computational concepts like repetition (brush bottom left teeth five times), sequencing (put cereal in bowl and then put in milk), and conditional logic (if the bowl is empty, stop eating).
Challenge your child to be as specific with the instructions as possible. Computers don’t understand your intentions, so if you don’t specify that you need to get out the bowl first, you’ll end up pouring milk on the floor!
In math class, kids learn about prime numbers and how to determine if a number is prime. But with large numbers, this is very difficult! For the number 493, you’d have to try over 15 calculations to learn that 493 is not prime (17 * 29 = 493). Kids can write an algorithm in Tynker to determine if a number is prime.
What are the characteristics of an algorithm?
It should be finite. If your algorithm never stops trying to solve the problem it was designed to solve, then it is useless.
It should have well-defined instructions.Each step of the algorithm has to be precisely defined; the instructions should be unambiguously specified for each case
It should be effective.The algorithm should solve the problem it was designed to solve. And it should be possible to demonstrate that the algorithm converges with just a pencil and paper
Most famous of all, Google uses an algorithm, PageRank, to determine which search results appear and in what order, ensuring the highest-quality, most credible websites appear first. Meaning, hundreds of factors are taken into consideration every time a query is searched.
YouTube is also known for its recommendation algorithm; the sophisticated code that recommends which video appears as your recommended next watch. The goal? To get viewers to keep consuming video content by trying to present to them the right video at the right time.
Have you ever noticed why, on your social media platform of choice, you seem to see posts from the same people more than others? That's because these social media platforms use algorithms as well, putting posts in front of you based on how relevant they are to you and your browsing needs. This relevance can be determined by how often you interact with posts from certain people, or by the type of content you enjoy.
Often, flow charts are used to explain the process of an algorithm. Take this visual for example; it illustrates how an online checkers algorithm would process the information needed to make the best possible next move.
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