Coding Early Sets the Stage for Academic Success

Carol Amaral-Ly
As organizations around the world continue to rely on ever-changing technology for their day-to-day operations, it should come as no surprise that computer science has become increasingly more popular in high school and college curricula. But computer science can also be taught to even the youngest students, beginning with simple coding, the process of writing instructions for a computer to follow a series of commands. And the earlier they begin, the sooner students build the following fundamental skills that will carry into their future academic success and even into their professional lives:

Planning before executing. 
Unlike many things in today’s society, coding is not instantaneous and requires planning. 
Picture a group of kindergartners working together to program Bee-Bot, a cute robot toy that travels around a play city based on a sequence of moves. Before the coding can begin, the students must first decide on the movements it will make, the order of the movements, and where Bee-Bot will stop. Next, they must map out the sequence. Being able to plan will help them as they learn more advanced coding in the future, as well as with any type of future project they encounter.  

Taking healthy risks and persevering.
Coding in the classroom allows students to be comfortable being uncomfortable. As students learn how to write code, it is common for them to miss elements in a specific sequence. But the stakes are low, and the motivation for success is high, inspiring them to try different things until they get it right. If Bee-Bot takes a left turn instead of right, it’s simply a matter of looking at the code and trying something different. And the younger a student can experience the sense of satisfaction that comes from taking healthy risks and persevering until achieving desired outcomes, the sooner they start to develop a can-do attitude. 

Loving math. 
Computer science helps students continue to build upon their math skills learned in the classroom. When writing code, students look for patterns, work and get comfortable with using non-standard measurements, practice their multiplication and division, and begin to understand theoretical and experimental probability. In fact, because computer science incorporates math in such an organic way, students begin to find math both meaningful and fun. 
Working well with others. 
Partner programming, where students work with each other to write and decipher codes, is a great opportunity for students to learn how to work with others. When coming up with a sequence of moves for Bee-Bot as a group, there is room for each child to contribute to the process, to practice their listening skills, and to learn how to be a good teammate. Students are also able to work on their presentation skills as they are asked to explain their thinking to other group members. 

The sooner, the better!
It is empowering for a student to write a program that solves a problem–or sets a Bee-Bot on an adventure––because of their calculations and planning. Schools that can introduce these concepts to their youngest classrooms set students up for a life of learning with confidence and joy. 

WFS Mathematics and Computer Science Specialist Carol Amaryl-Ly has been teaching at Friends since 2000. To learn more about computer science and coding at Wilmington Friends, listen to Carol's podcast episode.
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