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Algorithms and Computational Thinking


The use of code to make computers or computational devices act in a desired way.

Practical Application 

Everything with computers happens because of software, and that software requires coding and algorithms to work. By learning the fundamental building blocks of algorithms and computational thinking, citizens can apply these ideas in all kinds of situations.

Three Examples of how a professional or person might use algorithms and computational thinking:

CNN Report: Algorithms are everywhere and why you should care


Algorithms often impact people when we don’t know it. Facebook, X, TicTok and other social media use algorithms to show you content they think you will be interested in. Amazon uses algorithms not only to show your products, but also to decide what to stock in the warehouse.


Professionals use algorithms every day. A bank may use algorithms to help decide who gets a loan. A local store will use specific words on their website to increase the likelihood that it will come up in a google search, this is called SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Your home thermostat may use an algorithm to determine when to turn the heat up (when you are home) or down (when you are away or sleeping) in the winter.

Are there SPECIFIC standards for algorithms and computational thinking?

The Computer Science Teachers Association standards include algorithms and computational thinking at all grade levels.

Are there places where algorithms and computational thinking appears in other standards 

The Next Generation Science Standards include computational thinking as a cross cutting standard, and many mathematics standards include mathematical modeling which can be closely connected to algorithms and programming.

What are good starting resources for a teacher or administrator?

There are numerous resources for teaching coding, computer science, computational thinking, or programming in K-12 classrooms. Check out these resources for some starting points:

Are there any media or stories of algorithms or computational thinking in schools out there? 

Since the start of the push for more computer science and computational thinking in schools there have been a large number of stories about algorithms and CT in schools. Consider starting with these two:

How do ethics and social impacts intersect with the use of algorithms? 

One of the biggest ethical challenges of algorithms is that as they become more complicated, it is difficult to predict the exact outcomes. When considering the societal impacts or ethical impacts of algorithms, business and professionals have an obligation to not only look at the intent of the algorithm, but also measure the way the algorithm impacts society, sometimes in unintended ways. Because modern algorithms often use data to make decisions, leading to artificial intelligence applications, there are sometimes flaws in the data that must also be considered. Check out this TED talk on the bias in algorithms, or the Algorithmic Justice League for some more information.

What keywords could be searched to find out more about algorithms and computational thinking?

Software Engineering



Data Structures

Machine Learning

How can we build capacity to add algorithms and CT to our instruction?

Professional learning

There are many communities supporting professional learning for teachers to teach computer science including algorithms and computational thinking. Check out your favorite curriculum provider, look for resources from your state, explore resources from the Computer Science Teachers Association, or search CSforALL's curriculum directory.


Financial Support

There is significant funding from both the public (state and federal) and private sector to increase the availability of computer science in schools. Much of that funding supports basic instruction in algorithms and computational thinking.

Pathway planning and Support

  • CSforALL SCRIPT Program

  • Check with your local CSTA chapter or with your state department of education for upcoming professional learning and pathway planning opportunities.

Fields of SC

How its connected

Algorithms and computational thinking are what make our devices interactive and smart. Without the basic fundamentals of algorithms, devices would be like a light switch - either on or off - and only behave in that way.

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