Why Learn Computer Science?

Written by Dave Horrigan, Founder of CS Recitations in Natick, MA.

Even without the dire warnings about robots coming for our jobs, there are many great reasons to teach computer science to children starting from a young age. Yes, it’s absolutely true that a degree in computer science offers excellent employment opportunities in almost every field imaginable – computer science graduates consistently rank in the top 5 highest starting salaries among recent graduates. And yes, coding skills are required in most new jobs created in our modern economy.

But more important than increasing their prospects for future employment, through learning computer science students acquire invaluable habits of mind and feel empowered to create technology rather than being intimidated by it. In a computer science class, students learn how to break down big problems into little problems and then how to break little problems into even smaller, more manageable problems. They learn logic, organization, and creativity. And the best part – they learn these skills in a highly motivating environment.

Students as young as fifth grade eagerly learn about the coordinate plane in order to move a sprite across the computer screen. They learn about variables, functions, and true/false operators. They learn how to simulate gravity so that their video games appear as realistic as possible. And while learning they are laughing, sharing, and producing original works of art, music, games, stories, and animations! Can you imagine a class about functions and variables that students beg to attend? That’s the environment that a great computer science class creates.

The skills learned in computer science stay with students as they grow and help students in many subjects, from math to chemistry to philosophy – even to the mock trial team. And the results are long-lasting. There is evidence that students who learn computer science go on to perform better on standardized math exams in subsequent years.

High school and college students frequently find that they have class projects requiring some coding skills, even within the humanities departments. Students who’ve had at least one coding class before arriving at college are much better prepared to tackle the various coding demands they may face, whether they need to use SAS to perform a statistical analysis, Maya to create an animation, Avid to edit a film, or MatLab to model a mathematical property. Prior experience with the fundamentals of coding and problem solving allows them to jump in with confidence and focus on their field of interest.

So whether your child aspires to be a computer scientist or not, whether they are in elementary school or high school, the gift of a computer science.

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