This article was originally published in 2013. I believe it has stood the test of time.
One way you can “get into” computational thinking is through spreadsheets. Taking a practical view of what “computational thinking” means (see What is Computational Thinking?), I’d say that spreadsheets definitely fit the bill. In order to try to solve a problem using a spreadsheet, which is a tool for modelling or simulation, you have to do the following things:
- Work out what it is you are trying to find out
- Frame the problem in terms a computer (spreadsheet) will understand
- Work out what the influential changeable elements are (ie the variables)
- Decide what operation/s is/are required, ie what algorithm is/are needed
- Design the spreadsheet
- Construct it, automating as much of it as possible, especially the error-checking
- Test it
- Decide on the best (eg most efficient) solution
As a bonus, if you use Excel then you will automatically have the built-in programming language, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). In a forthcoming post I will relate what the benefits of VBA are. In another post or two I will give examples of spreadsheets I’ve created that exemplify computational thinking.