Your son or daughter (or niece or nephew or grandchild or neighbor) loves computers! They’re always playing games on the computer. They can do pretty much anything with the machine. They zip from screen to screen with what seems like a supernatural speed.
Does their love of computers mean they’ll be natural computer programmers?
The answer is: Maybe.
Programming is creative.
Computer programming isn’t just about using a computer well. Computer programming is about telling the computer what you want it to do. If you think your child would enjoy telling the computer what to do, and not just using it to do other things they enjoy, then they’ll probably enjoy programming!
Programming is an inherently creative activity—as a programmer, you have to decide what you want the computer to do. Does your child like to make up games? Do they like to write stories, songs, plays, or create worlds in their mind? If they play video games, what games do they play? Do they like to create epic fortresses in Minecraft or spend a long time planning out strategies? Do they like to build interesting structures or machines? Developing a computer program is ultimately about creating a world in your mind and then explaining how that world works to other people and your computer. If your child likes to create and express themselves, chances are that they’ll enjoy creating computer programs!
Good communication is more important than Math.
Some people worry that because they aren’t very good at math, they won’t be a good computer programmer. That’s not true! You can be a good computer programmer with very few math skills. Most of computer programming, and certainly the most difficult and important part, is expressing ideas clearly enough that even the computer can understand them. If your child is a good communicator or enjoys breaking things down logically, chances are they’ll enjoy computer programming. Being good at math is very useful for certain kinds of computer programming (3D game development or advanced algorithms, for instance). That said, the most complicated math most programmers do is add or subtract 1 from things, so if your child can do that, they’ll be fine.
Where do I start?
So it sounds like your child might enjoy computer programming. Great! Where can you start?
There are plenty of free resources online for self-motivated learners, including the fantastic Code.org and Scratch websites (or Python or Free Code Camp for more experienced coders). If your student would rather have someone walk them through the basics, I highly recommend they go at their own pace through my course, Coding Foundations, which I created to collect the most foundational computer programming principles together in one place, and to pass on some of my professional programming knowledge to the next generation.
Programming is a ton of fun! If your child likes computers, and you think they might like programming, introduce them to it using any of the free resources listed on this site. Programming is an empowering skill to have. Have fun, and happy programming!
“The computer programmer is a creator of universes for which he alone is the lawgiver. No playwright, no stage director, no emperor, however powerful, has ever exercised such absolute authority to arrange a stage or field of battle and to command such unswervingly dutiful actors or troops.”― Joseph Weizenbaum