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Learning to Think Like a Computer

A kindergartner organizes blocks into a sequence of commands.

Since 2011, the number of U.S. computer science majors has more than doubled, according to the Computing Research Association.

Credit: Charlie Mahoney/The New York Times

The number of computer science majors has more than doubled since 2011, according to the Computing Research Association, a phenomenon some say is due to an emphasis on "computational thinking," which is finding its way into all levels of education.

Brown University professor Shriram Krishnamurthi, the inaugural winner in 2012 of the ACM Special Interest Group on programming languages (SIGPLAN) Robin Milner Young Research Award, says this mindset demands reframing research so "instead of formulating a question to a human being, I formulate a question to a dataset."

Microsoft's Jeannette M. Wing put computational thinking into vogue by implying it can be used to improve people's daily lives and reduce stress. Adherents describe this mode of thinking as a way to make the fundamentals of working with computers a teachable blueprint.

The ease with which human-computer communications has improved is one factor underlying the growing advocacy of computational thinking. The goal of many initiatives is for people to be able to effortlessly acquire computational thinking skills.

From The New York Times
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