A Beginner’s Guide to Algorithmic Thinking

January 11,2021 - 5 min read
A Beginner’s Guide to Algorithmic Thinking

Algorithmic thinking refers to the use of a set of instructions in order to complete a task. It is mandatory for developers to inculcate algorithmic thinking; however, it is a good practice to teach students to use algorithmic thinking as it prepares them for the competitions in life ahead. The basic concept of algorithmic thinking is the valuable and necessary skill of problem solving.

Algorithmic thinking is most utilised in the field of computer science and mathematics. Algorithms are the backbone of the large sequences of code and helps in chunking big problems into smaller parts that are easily solvable. Algorithms are based on the concept of computers’ decision-making processes and the ability to do specific things at a particular time. Algorithm are a set of defined rules that lead the computer to the right answer or conclusion.

Some of the most popular pre-established algorithms are the sorting algorithms that are nothing but effective methods for sorting items in a list. However, while solving most problems in computer science, a programmer takes different factors into account to construct algorithm specific to the question asked.

When it comes to algorithmic thinking, knowing or learning an algorithm is not enough. Memorizing an algorithm is different from building an algorithmic thinking and hence constructing your own for every problem you encounter. It refers to the understanding of conditional statements and loops and the underlying logic to solve problems and create an algorithm written in a procedural manner. In today’s blog, we are going to discuss how to develop an algorithmic thinking. Let’s get started!

Algorithmic Thinking for Beginners

As mentioned above, algorithms are the backbone of computer science. They are basically step-by-step chunks of code that helps in solving more complicated and robust programming questions. If you are a computer science student, learning about established algorithms would be a major part of your curriculum.

Computational or algorithmic thinking isn’t necessarily all about coding and maybe that is why it is important for everybody to learn. Algorithms and computational thinking are slowly becoming more integrated into classrooms of all students whether they are studying technology or not, it is to say that algorithmic thinking is finding a place in non-computer-science curriculum also.

Teaching the concept of algorithms to younger students is very beneficial as over a period of time, algorithmic thinking becomes a part of their mental toolkit which can be extremely valuable. It gives them the confidence of making decisions in their daily lives and teaches them procedural and scientific ways to learn new things. Algorithms help students to think better and come up with new ways to tackle new problems. Learning about pre-existing algorithms can be a good starting point for anyone to learn algorithmic thinking and then they can go beyond and learn the complex nuances of algorithm and also make some of their own algorithms. In our next segment, we would learn how to inculcate and practice algorithm thinking and use it to our benefit in daily life.

Ways to Practice Algorithmic Thinking

A good and easy way to inculcate algorithmic thinking is by learning how to code. Algorithms are very popular and are widely used in the world of computer science and hence the best way to learn them is to learn the basic language of computer that is coding. When students apply their algorithms and run the actual code, it helps the students to reflect on the results of their solution and then reiterate if need be so.

However, it’s not necessary to learn to code to inculcate algorithmic thinking and therefore not knowing how to code is not necessarily a barrier because they can always use pseudocode that outlines steps instead of real coding. Students can create the skeleton of a program, then code it using various tools and technologies to see and analyse results.

There are several ways to practice algorithmic thinking and actual coding or even pseudocode doesn’t have to be a part of them. Students can use flowchart which is a good visual way to represent decisions and results. Creating and listening to stories are another resource to learn algorithmic thinking. These are basically writing instructional narratives or directions. For example, even a recipe written in a procedural manner can help students to understand the idea behind algorithms. An algorithm is simply a set of rules that you have to follow in order to achieve a particular result. For example, there are various kinds of algorithms to make a cup of coffee. An algorithm is nothing but a detailed process where everything is clearly written down and the user intentionally and carefully move through every step. Algorithmic thinking is like an intentional process which contributes to human improvement. Just like in algorithms where if we implement the pseudocode, the result would be achieved, in real life if we implement our intentions, we would achieve human improvement also

Once students have mastered algorithmic thinking, they can move on to other types of skills like pattern recognition. Although algorithmic is a useful skill as it helps with a lot of things in everyday lives like writing down rules or guidelines or giving directions.

Algorithmic thinking is an excellent way to develop an intelligent mind that is capable of solving the most complex problems in an efficient manner. Whether you are learning about technology or reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, algorithmic thinking proves to be useful and practical not only inside the academic buildings but also in real life.

Algorithms in Real Life

If we look carefully, algorithms are a part of our daily lives and everything we do can be summed up or represented through an IF-THEN process. Even if we think about the underlying structure of success in life, we realise that the if- then process is very important. If success is defined as goal attainment, then we must understand the basic concept of our situation and behaviour with the help of the IF-THEN-ELSE construct. Now let’s understand the IF-THEN-ELSE construct, IF is used to express the Conditional Expression, then is used to represent the Consequent and ELSE is used for denoting the Alternative option. The command End IF is used to end the execution of the IF- THEN structure. The IF-THEN construct is specifically used in Algorithmic Thinking for understanding the human improvement. We need to understand its significance by diving deep into the concept.

Now that we understood enough about algorithm thinking and how it can be inculcated in our daily lives, it is time we enlist, understand and analyse the benefits of Algorithmic Thinking.

Benefits of Algorithmic Thinking

Algorithmic Thinking is a unique but efficient way to solve problems, understand the given problem and design new and improved systems for the set of problems. In this segment, we pick out some specific benefits of Algorithmic Thinking like essential attitudes, abstract thinking among others.

One of the most popular benefits if algorithmic thinking is that it promotes decomposition. Algorithm thinking encourages learners to adopt the process of breaking down complicated problems into smaller components and then working on them or finding a solution one by one. The skill of decomposition prevents big and complex problems from becoming overwhelmed.

The second evident benefit of algorithmic thinking is abstraction. If you have the skills of abstraction, it is easy for you to strip away the unnecessary details and carve out an efficient solution. Algorithm thinking enables you to learn abstraction, the skill of knowing what information is important and what can be left out.

Pattern Recognition is another skill that can be learnt from algorithmic thinking as it helps us to leverage pattern recognition by analysing the various trends and effectively using the given information for problem-solving.

The last but not the least, Essential Attitudes is the skill inculcated by learning algorithmic thinking. The process of solving a problem in an efficient way requires an empowered, intentional and confident attitude. Apart from the skills, we need this type of attitude to have the courage to take on difficult and ambiguous problems.

Algorithm thinking gives its learners the opportunity to improve, be efficient and succeed in everything they set to do. It is a good practice to develop and optimize algorithms all tasks in we do our daily lives. For example, there can be specific algorithms for writing, exercise or even morning routine.

Algorithmic Thinking helps us to adapt our behaviours to particular situations and lets us successfully move in the direction of future events. Algorithms are basically our friends that guide us to success. Let’s understand success in real life through an example of algorithms. IF a person exercises regularly AND stick to his or her morning routine THEN he or she would definitely improve both physically and mentally. ELSE if the procedure is not followed THEN the person will not improve.

With this we come to an end of our beginner’s guide to algorithm thinking. We hope this blog inspires you to inculcate the magic if algorithm in your day- to- day life. As a technocrat, algorithms are very useful in developing applications, solving bugs and creating cutting edge software solutions. If you think there are some few tips and tricks that are essential but not mentioned in this post, we encourage you to share your thoughts with us and in turn build a community of like- minded technocrats.

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