Thursday, 30 October 2014

Is it an Algorithm?

If the new primary computing curriculum has achieved anything,  it is introducing the word algorithm into the vocabulary of most teachers. We now all know that algorithms are just a set of instructions to get something done and range from knitting patterns to recipes, from lego instructions to programs written in logo. 

This term we have introduced the word algorithm to pupils EYFS. The children pretended to be a pirate, the gruffalo, even the Queen when saying the word. They have also enjoyed singing the algorithm round.


There are key features to algorithm that we can use to identify if something is an algorithm. They must have a outcome: something has to be achieved. They need to be sequenced into a set of steps: if these steps are not followed in order the end product will not be reached. So a no parking sign is not an algorithm but instructions on how to use a parking meter are.

Using this criteria,  pupils can sort images into algorithms or advice. This can be started in class, using this presentation, and continued at home with pupils collecting images of everyday algorithms. Before attempting to understand what a program is, pupils' need a sound understanding of what an algorithm is and isn't.

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