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What is Computational Thinking?

A chess playing robot

One of the exciting things about learning Computer science is that you learn a new and fundamental way of thinking and problem solving; a way of thinking that is critical in the 21st Century. It is called "Computational Thinking" and the idea that this is one of the big advantages of studying computer science, whatever your ultimate career, is causing a big stir. Some are even claiming it should be added to reading, writing and arithmetic as a core ability that every person should learn.

Jeannette Wing, Head of the Department of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has been one of the most eloquent Computer Scientists to argue the case, and it was Jeanette who first coined the phrase "Compuational Thinking". Microsoft, were impressed sufficiently by her arguments and the importance of the subject that they recently gave Carnegie Mellon a grant of several million dollars to set up a new Centre to study this aspect of Computer Science and the way it transforms other sciences.

Computational Thinking is the skill of the 21st century

So what is Computational Thinking? Well it is a collection of diverse skills to do with problem solving that result from studying the nature of computation. It includes some obviously important skills that most subjects help develop, like creativity, ability to explain and team work. It also consists of some very specific problem solving skills such as the ability to think logically, algorithmically and recursively. It is also about understanding people. Computer Science is unique in the way it brings all these diverse skills together.

Follow the links below for a cs4fn guide to some of the skills that fall under the Computational Thinking banner and how they work together to solve problems.