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Your child has been learning A LOT of new routines. Your child has learned how to walk in line down the hallway; to get and clean up their lunch; and much, much more! Your child’s teacher is helping your child understand that routines are like algorithms in computer science. You and your child also use routines at home! Some might be new – like getting ready for school. But others will be familiar – like brushing your teeth.
You can use these routines at home to reinforce learning about algorithms.
Your child will understand that using steps helps us do tasks and solve problems in our daily lives. Sometimes the order of steps matters.
- Algorithm – a list of steps to solve a problem or achieve a goal/task
- Code, Coding or Program – words that we use to talk about algorithms that computers can understand
- Sequence – the correct order of steps, like actions, or objects
Your child will begin using new computer science words at school. We encourage you to use these words at home, too. You don’t have to teach these to your child directly. They’ll learn these words just by hearing you use them in context.
Powerful idea: algorithms
An algorithm is a list of steps. Those steps help us solve a problem or achieve a goal. It is important to do the steps in order. We call this order of steps a sequence.
Sequencing means that we put actions or objects in the correct order. This is a very important idea in reading and math, too!
Young children learn best about algorithms and sequence together.
Activity: Naming Steps
During daily tasks, name the steps that you and your child are doing to achieve a goal or solve a problem.
HOW TO DO IT
Before you start a task, tell your child that you’re going to name the steps.
To get started, ask, “What do we do first?” Once your child describes the first step, do it.
Ask about each step before doing it. Remember to take things one step at a time.
If your child forgets to name a step, that’s okay! You can say, “I noticed you did something before that. What was that step?”
When you’re all done, make sure to celebrate. You can remind your child that learning to list steps is important. We can list steps to make an algorithm to tell a computer how to do things for us.
WHEN TO DO IT
Try naming steps for a task every time you do it. Your child should get better at naming the steps the more you practice.
But keep it fun! If your child gets bored naming steps with one task, try naming steps for a different task.
Some common tasks with steps that you can your child can do together:
Activity: Order Matters
During daily tasks, think about why the order of steps is important.
HOW TO DO IT
Before you start a task, tell your child that order matters when we do the steps.
Let your child name the steps for the task (like they did in “Naming Steps”). As an extra challenge, you can ask your child to name the steps before they do the task.
Ask, “What would happen if we did _____ first?”
Be silly! Have fun as you imagine what would happen if the order changed.
When you’re all done, make sure to celebrate. You can remind your child that putting the steps of an algorithm in the correct order is important. This order is the sequence that tells a computer how to do things for us.
WHEN TO DO IT
Use some of the tasks from “Naming Steps” to think about why order matters.
For some steps, there is one correct order. For example, you have to put toothpaste on the toothbrush before you can brush your teeth.
Other steps can have more than one correct order. For example, you can make a peanut butter & jelly sandwich different ways. You can put jelly on first. Or you can put peanut butter on before jelly.
Try to do both types of tasks. Think about why order of steps is important sometimes but not others.
Activity: Robot Mouse
Program the robot with an algorithm to move through mazes.
WHAT’S IN THE KIT?
You have everything you need to use the robot mouse at home! Your kit includes: a robot mouse, a coding maze, coding cards, dry erase markers, an eraser, and a set of sticks.
HOW TO DO IT
Ask your child, “What is a robot?”
Your child should have some ideas already from school or from books or TV. Remind them that robots can move and do things BUT they are not alive. And they don’t use magic to move! Instead, people write programs or code robots to tell them how to move and what to do. The program tells the robot what to do. You and your child will work together to write programs that move the robot mouse through mazes.
SET UP THE MAZE
Use the 2 x 3 grid to make a simple maze (see pictures). Place the mouse in a starting place. Draw a end goal with the dry erase marker or place a toy there. If you want to build walls, you can use a dry erase marker to make walls or use toys you have at home (like Legos) to block the robot’s path.
MAKE A PLAN
Ask,“How can we get the mouse from the start to the end?”
Imagine different ways to get the robot mouse to the end (the cheese). You can be more creative with more complex mazes. But even with simple maze, you can have fun! For example, you can add some backwards moves or wild cards. Work together to plan and create your program by laying out the coding cards:
RUN THE PROGRAM
Once you have a plan, program the mouse by pushing the button on top of the robot (see picture on next page).
If you the mouse does not make it to the end, try to change the program (using the coding cards) and try again.
NOTE: Many children think that turning also moves the mouse. It doesn’t! If you see your child making that mistake, let them. They can test their program and figure out how to “debug” or fix it. This is an important part of computer science, and most children can quickly and easily figure this out on their own.
TIPS & RESOURCES
BUILD YOUR OWN MAZE
Use the provided sticks or other materials at home (like Legos) to build your own maze. Remember the robot mouse moves 5 inches or 12.5 cm each time your press the forward or backward buttons.
A FEW MAZES TO TRY
TRY BEE BOT ONLINE
If your child wants an extra challenge, try programming Bee Bot online. Bee Bot is like our robot mouse but online with lots of maze options.
To cite this website
Harper, F. K., Caudle, L., Quinn, M. (2021). Culturally relevant robotics: A family and teacher (CRRAFT) partnership for computational thinking for early childhood. Retrieved from: http://crraft.org.