Algorithms and Life

Enduring Understanding

People follow and create processes as part of daily life. Many of these processes can be expressed as algorithms that computers can follow. Computers follow precise sequences of instructions that automate tasks. Information in the real world can be represented in computer programs. Programs store and manipulate data, such as numbers, words, colors, and images.


Essential Questions

  • How do people use algorithms in daily life routines and in real world?
  • How does a computer work?

Core Concepts:

  • Algorithms and Programming

CSTA Standards

1A-AP-08 - Model daily processes by creating and following algorithms (sets of step-by-step instructions) to complete tasks.

Composition is the combination of smaller tasks into more complex tasks. Students could create and follow algorithms for making simple foods, brushing their teeth, getting ready for school, participating in clean-up time.

1A-AP-09 - Model the way programs store and manipulate data by using numbers or other symbols to represent information.

Information in the real world can be represented in computer programs. Students could use thumbs up/down as representations of yes/no, use arrows when writing algorithms to represent direction, or encode and decode words using numbers, pictographs, or other symbols to represent letters or words.

1A-AP-10 - Develop programs with sequences and simple loops, to express ideas or address a problem.

Programming is used as a tool to create products that reflect a wide range of interests. Control structures specify the order in which instructions are executed within a program. Sequences are the order of instructions in a program. For example, if dialogue is not sequenced correctly when programming a simple animated story, the story will not make sense. If the commands to program a robot are not in the correct order, the robot will not complete the task desired. Loops allow for the repetition of a sequence of code multiple times. For example, in a program to show the life cycle of a butterfly, a loop could be combined with move commands to allow continual but controlled movement of the character.

1A-AP-11 - Decompose (break down) the steps needed to solve a problem into a precise sequence of instructions.

Decomposition is the act of breaking down tasks into simpler tasks. Students could break down the steps needed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, to brush their teeth, to draw a shape, to move a character across the screen, or to solve a level of a coding app.

1A-AP-14 - Debug (identify and fix) errors in an algorithm or program that includes sequences and simple loops.

Algorithms or programs may not always work correctly. Students should be able to use various strategies, such as changing the sequence of the steps, following the algorithm in a step-by-step manner, or trial and error to fix problems in algorithms and programs.

Equity and UDL

It's recommended that educators begin with Unplugged Activities to introduce CS concepts before moving onto Plugged (Device-based) Activities and Physical Computing (Robotics and Micro-Controllers).
In the light of UDL, teachers are encouraged to offer flexibility in their classrooms. The goal of UDL is to use a variety of teaching methods to remove any barriers to learning. In the same way, we're here to provide you with many different resources and materials that you can choose to meet the need of your students.

Related Resources and Toolkits


Programming Platforms

  • Scratch Jr.
  • CodeMonkey
  • Kodable
  • CodeSpark (The Foos)
  • Tynker

Physical Computing Extensions

  • BeeBot
  • KIBO
  • Puzzlets
  • Dash and Dot
  • Osmo
  • Ozobot

Sample Lessons

View Samples

Sources & Attribution

Adapted primarily from Creative Commons licensed resources developed by