There are countless reasons why kids should learn to code, not all of them having to do with landing a good-paying job.
“Code has become the 4th literacy. Everyone needs to know how our digital world works, not just engineers.”
—Mark Surman, Executive Director, Mozilla Foundation
Learning to code empowers kids in so many ways. Coding classes for kids teach problem solving, attention to detail, and how to be part of a team. As a result, kids build their self-confidence, learn how to take risks, and experience the thrill of building something from scratch.
These are all valuable life skills and work skills.
That being said, as we integrate technology into more and more aspects of our world, it’s undeniable that having coding skills provides an advantage when pursuing many different careers. Employers, more and more, are demanding their employees have coding skills.
It’s hard to believe that a single project can lead to so many rich experiences and build such strong thinking skills. But learning to code can do all this and much more.
In the end, being a kid who can code really does feel like being a kid with a super power.
1. Learning to Code is Fun
First and foremost, learning to code is fun.
In a recent survey 54% of students said they enjoyed Computer Science and Engineering the most [among the subjects they were learning]. Only Art and Design and Performing Arts ranked higher.”
Coding offers the sheer joy that comes from making things, the fascination of solving puzzles and problems, the pleasure of making something useful, and the delight of learning.
Learning to code offers kids the opportunity to experience all this and more.
Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. summed it up this way:
Coding “gratifies creative longings built deep within us and delights sensibilities we have in common….”
When learning to code, kids take an idea, map it out, build it, make it real, and make it work.
Remember the excitement of completing your first LEGO build? Did you make a car? A plane? A dinosaur?
Imagine being able to make your creation move without touching it. Your car could drive across the floor. Your plane’s propeller could spin. And your dinosaur could attack like Godzilla.
Coding makes it possible to experience the thrill of changing a simple model into a remote-control robot.
2. Coding Teaches Problem Solving Skills
All coding projects start with solving a problem.
Whether it’s bringing an idea into real life, improving how something works, or fixing something that’s broken, every coding project involves problem solving.
As with many things in life, code doesn’t always work as expected on the first try.
When that happens, it’s try, try again. But kids learning to code don’t simply try random fixes, one after the other, until something works. They learn a more elegant approach. Kids who code learn to use the problem solving framework, and implement the right fix.
Kids who code practice the six steps of problem solving:
- Define the problem.
- Find the root cause of the problem.
- Come up with alternate solutions.
- Pick a solution.
- Try that solution.
- Evaluate the result.
In the process kids who code experience real word problem solving. They develop mad problem solving skills that transfer to other challenges and situations.
3. Coding Teaches Logical Reasoning Skills
Coding classes for kids gives them a mental workout.
While learning the problem solving framework provides kids with a process, learning logical thinking provide kids with the critical reasoning skills needed to successfully use that framework.
Being able to approach problem solving logically enables kids who code to approach problem solving in a disciplined manner and create more effective solutions.
Having logical thinking skills encourages kids to think for themselves, to question assumptions, to develop their own theories, and to test their theories against known facts. These thinking skills are transferable to all situations.
4. Coding Teaches Attention to Detail
Coding projects are complex, requiring lots of individual steps. To be successful kids who code must adopt a detail-minded approach.
Attention to detail, especially in the design phase where the essence of what’s required is defined. With attention to detail not only is it possible to make something work, it can also lead to creating a thing of beauty.
As mentioned earlier, code doesn’t always work as expected on the first try. When this happens kids who code have to take a detail-minded approach to debugging their code. This type of approach supports a thorough application of the problem solving framework.
The ability to be thorough and accurate when working through tasks is a valuable skill in just about every endeavor. Coding classes for kids nurture their attention to detail.
5. Having Coding Skills Can Lead to a High-paying Job
More and more aspects of our everyday life are becoming automated. As this happens, the supply gap for people with coding skills continues to grow.
It’s estimated that as many as 1 million jobs will go unfilled over the next decade because workers won’t have the necessary coding skills.
“Roughly half of the jobs in the top income quartile — defined as those paying $57,000 or more per year — are in occupations that commonly require applicants to have at least some computer coding knowledge or skill, according to an analysis of 26 million U.S. online job postings…”
— Heatstreet, Half of the Highest-Paying Jobs in America Now Require You to Know How to Code, June 22, 2016
That doesn’t mean that everyone will be working as a coder. There will be plenty of well-paid jobs that don’t directly involve coding.
Reading and writing have long been considered baseline skills people need for work. Now, in the 21st century, employers also look for employees with the efficient, innovative problem solving mindset that comes from knowing how to code.
6. Coding Experience Helps College Applicants Stand Out
The college application process is highly competitive. In a sea of honor roll applicants how can anyone demonstrate the “exceptional talent” needed to get into the college of their choice? One way is to study coding and build a portfolio of coding projects. A coding portfolio provides the admissions officer tangible evidence of the applicant’s problem solving skills, creativity, and work ethic.
Not sure if learning to code will be useful? According to the College Board, studying computer science is good preparation for 48 different college majors—not all of them have to do with science or technology. They include Business Administration, Geology, Linguistics, Studio Arts, and Zoology. And, oh yeah, studying code is good preparation for a technology degree as well, whether it’s in Database Management, Software Engineering, or Robotics.
For those kids who do go on to study computer science their prospects for finding a well-paid job at graduation are very good.
“A computer science major can earn 40% more than the college average. According to Brookings [Institute] a computer science major’s lifetime earnings are $1.67M versus $1.19M of a college graduate and $0.58M of a high school graduate.”
7. Learning to Code Makes High School Easier
While learning to code, kids are introduced to and gain experience with disciplines they are likely to study in high school. The link to advanced math is obvious, but learning to code also involves logic and problem solving. So, when they get to high school, kids who learn to code already have a base of knowledge to work from and a leg up on kids without this background.
8. Summer Jobs & Internships Value Skills Learned While Coding
Even if the summer job or internship doesn’t directly involve coding, employers are looking for kids who have strong communications skills and can work as part of a team. Kids learn these and other skills while learning to code..
“Coding is beneficial for many things, not just for engineering jobs! It will be useful in almost every profession. If you end up having an office job, it can end up helping you with small automated tasks. If you work at a research lab, then it could also end up being very helpful. I know that as a student, it has made my homework much easier! I can now make programs to help me complete my math homework much faster (not sure if my math teacher would approve…).”
― Daniella Maydan, High School Student
9. Coding Teaches Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is all about making judgements and decisions based on reason and logic. By practicing critical thinking skills, kids who code develop a disciplined process for analyzing problems, gathering data and information, understanding the objective, distinguishing between possible solutions, predicting possible results, and choosing a problem-solving approach.
“Computer science is about logic, problem solving, and creativity.”
When kids learn to code they have to use critical thinking to build their projects. Every coding project presents a different set of problems. Each coding project has many possible solutions. Only by applying critical thinking can kids decide which solution to use. Kids who code have to practice critical thinking in order to successfully complete their coding projects.
10. Coding Demands Concentration
In our highly distracted world, learning to code gives kids the opportunity to concentrate and focus on a single thing. That thing is to solve the coding problem in front of them.
Concentration increases mental performance by focusing all efforts on a single thing. With concentration, decisions are easier and more focused on the objective at hand. With concentration, the effect of steps taken are maximized and wasted effort is minimized. Concentration is a skill that strengthens through practice. Learning to code gives kids the opportunity to practice and develop their ability to focus their thinking and attention.
11. Kids Who Code Develop Self-Confidence
Having self-confidence is a cornerstone for success. Self-confidence gives kids the ability to pursue their dreams and goals—whether it’s to speak up in class, or try out for the team, or make a new friend.
One of the best ways to build self-confidence is to become more competent at something. Learn how to do something new and do it well. Another really good way to build self-confidence is to set a goal and achieve it. After all, if you can reach that one goal, you can probably reach other goals again and again. Learning to code gives kids the opportunity to do both of these things and, as a result, build their self-confidence.
“Learning to code makes kids feel empowered, creative, and confident.”
― Susan Wojcicki, Senior Vice President at Google
12. Kids Who Code Build Communication Skills
In its simplest form communication is sharing a message with someone else and having that person understand it. But, as we all know, communication is seldom that simple or straightforward. There are many ways to communicate: spoken word, written word, pictures and images, etc. The list goes on.
Being able to communicate effectively is one of the most important life skills every kid needs to develop. Learning to code gives kids a lot of opportunities to communicate and develop their communications skills.
Part of learning to code is being part of a team. To work well in a team kids need to be able to listen and understand, speak and be understood—in both written and spoken language.
13. Kids Who Code Become Lifelong Learners
The world we live in is constantly changing. This is also true for the coding world. New technologies are transforming everything—the way people interact, the demands of work, even how we experience the world around us. There’s no indication that these changes are going to stop, or even slow down. In this ever-changing world is the world today’s kids need to be able to become lifelong learners able to adapt.
The ability to learn has become a critical life skill in the 21st century, whether or not coding remains a part of life. Learning to code gives kids the opportunity to learn a disciplined approach to learning new skills, new ways to look at the world, and new ways to solve problems.
“…the real value of learning to code isn’t in the mastery of the tools; it’s in the internalization of the methods, the analysis, and the critical thought processes that are the foundational skills of all great programmers.”
― Howard Tullman, Inc. magazine, The Real Benefits of Coding
14. Coding Teaches Abstract Thinking
Through abstract thinking kids begin to understand more than just what is physically in front of them. With abstract thinking kids can conceive of new things and ideas. They can consider what is possible. They can create.
“Thinking — in particular abstract thinking, which most of us are introduced to through the study of mathematics and literature — helps us learn that we can become problem solvers.”
― Kathryn Lasky, American author
The ability to think in the abstract and create is an important prerequisite for being able to learn to code. Much of how code is structured and works is abstract and cannot be easily represented in a concrete or physical manner. To truly understand many coding projects kids need to be conceptualize the problem and its solution in the abstract.
Learning to code gives kids the opportunity to consider the possibilities and ask “What if?” before taking any action. Abstract thinking supports being able to problem solve and create out-of-the-box solutions.
15. Coding Teaches Algorithmic Thinking
Algorithmic thinking is another approach to thinking that kids who learn to code practice and develop.
“Every 21st century student should also have a chance to learn about algorithms, how to make an app, or how the internet works”.
Algorithmic thinking applies a formula or procedure to solve a problem and produce a result. Whether we realize it or not algorithms surround us in our everyday living. Follow a recipe to make your favorite dish? You used an algorithm. Get a new book suggestion Amazon? It used an algorithm to decide which book to highlight. Understand how algorithms work and you can anticipate outcomes.
Algorithms add efficiency to coding. Instead of coming up with a new or different way of doing a well-defined thing, with algorithmic thinking a a tried-and-true approach is used. For common problems an algorithmic approach means there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
16. Kids Who Code Build Entrepreneurial Skills
Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about starting or running a business. It’s about bringing ideas to life. Being entrepreneurial is about being a problem solver, a clear communicator, a team leader, a visionary, taking risks, pursuing a passion, and so much more. When kids learn to do all of this they become the driving force behind creating new things.
“At its core, [entrepreneurship] is a mindset – a way of thinking and acting. It is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value.”
― Bruce Bachenheimer, Clinical professor of management and executive director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University
Developing entrepreneurial skills helps kids succeed in many aspects of life, whether or not they start and run a business. Kids who learn to code are exposed to the kinds of challenges that help them develop entrepreneurial skills. Every coding project requires having a vision, problem solving, and risk taking. Every team project requires clear communication and teamwork.
Of course, for those kids who aspire to becoming an entrepreneur, learning how to code provides a good start on that path.
“One of the most important skills any entrepreneur should learn is to program a computer. This is a critical skill if you want to start a tech startup, but a basic knowledge of code is useful even in traditional fields, because software is changing everything.”
― Reid Hoffman, Executive Chairman and co-founder of LinkedIn
17. Kids Who Code Develop Mental Focus
Kids who learn to code develop mental focus as they work, whether they are concentrating on a project, working alone, or working as part of a team.
Obviously, mental focus is valuable to kids working on school assignments or projects. The concentration that comes from focusing their thoughts helps kids work more efficiently and conserve their energies. But this isn’t the only benefit of developing mental focus. Developing mental focus is calming, giving kids a way to free themselves from annoying and distracting thoughts and create inner peace. Mental focus also improves memory by creating a mental anchor for thoughts and experiences.
18. Kids Who Code Develop Perseverance
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Perseverance is another valuable life skill that kids who code learn and develop.
Not every solution to a coding problem is simple or straightforward. Debugging why the code didn’t work or work as expected takes perseverance. When kids debug their code they have to have the patience to proofread carefully and to walk through each step of their code deliberately. Often the first fix tried won’t solve the problem. When this happens kids have to repeat the debugging process, sometimes several times, until they find the best solution.
“Brian Heese (2014) writes: ‘…when you learn computer programming you learn how to check your work for details, how to apply logic and how to persist at a task. You also learn how to ask a good question, often in written form. Finally you learn how to collaborate because much programming today is accomplished in teams. These timeless skills and learning behaviors will endure far longer than any programming language.’ ”
― Keith Haggard, edutopia.org, Coded for Success: The Benefits of Learning to Program
Many life situations call on perseverance to ultimately succeed. Good grades don’t always come easily. Getting on the team sometimes doesn’t always happen with the first tryout. Kids who learn to code also learn that they just might need to try again to reach their goal.
19. Kids Who Code Experience Teamwork and Collaboration
With teamwork and collaboration the result is more than the sum of the pieces. By working together kids who learn to code find out that they don’t have to go it alone. They learn that they can depend on other people and that other people are depending on them.
“As software developers, we need to consider those who maintain the applications we create, the other programmers whose applications interact with ours, the clients who use them, and society as a whole. We need to develop programming as a team sport and remember that people are trusting us to make sure the application behaves correctly.”
― Nick Rosasco, Professor at Valparaiso University
When kids learn to code in a team they have an opportunity to specialize their efforts and collaborate with others to complete the project. When working as part of a team they contribute to something bigger than themselves and share the joy of success or burden of failure.
Kids who learn to code take the social skills, resilience, and understanding of the bigger context that come from being part of a team with them to all their other endeavors, whether it’s school, sports, a hobby, or work.
20. Coding Gives Kids a Way to Express Their Creativity
There is no one right answer when solving programming problems. Solving programming problems requires creativity.
Every programming problem has more than one solution. Every programmer can choose among different approaches to get to a solution. Because of this kids who learn to code are called upon to be creative. They must conceptualize how their code will work and what the result will be. Often the solution brings together many smaller pieces to create a unique whole.
“I was a bit of an artist, and somewhere along the way had gotten the idea that computers could be used for animation and artists, because in-betweening was so tedious. . . Of course, everyone thought I was nuts.”
― Carla Meninsky, Engineer for Atari, who coded the Atari 2600 games Warlords, Dodge ‘Em, and Star Raiders.
Using a creative approach opens kids’ minds to new possibilities and forces them to consider alternative approaches. Developing these skills gives kids the resilience needed to respond to the challenges presented by our ever changing world.
21. Risk Taking Is Part of Learning How to Code
Risk taking can seem frightening. But it can also be the challenge that teaches kids how to face uncertainty, engage in problem-solving, be flexible and creative. Ultimately, kids develop judgement, perseverance, and resilience from risk taking.
Kids who learn how to code are in a learning environment that intentionally encourages risk taking. Even after analyzing a coding problem sometimes kids just have to try something and see what happens. If the path they take works, then they experience the thrill of success. If it doesn’t work, they are challenged to try different approach.
“Our schools should be the same—environments for safe experimentation, viewing failure as an opportunity for learning rather than a mark of shame.”
― Salman Khan, Founder of Khan Academy
Not being afraid to take risks makes kids resourceful and resilient, which are two characteristics that are valuable in school, work, and life.
22. Coding Teaches Strategic Thinking
Strategic thinking makes is possible to see and understand a whole idea, all its parts, and how they are connected. Strategic thinking also leads to understanding the vision and purpose behind the project.
Kids who learn to code learn how to think strategically. Every programming problem is looked at as a whole, as a collection of its various pieces, and in the context of the bigger picture. This approach can uncover leverage points for kids to exploit and it helps kids understand the effects of their coding project on the larger environment. It also helps kids connect with the the vision and purpose of the project and experience being mission-driven.
Strategic thinking is valuable in every problem-solving situation, because with strategic thinking kids can see the bigger picture and anticipate the effect of their actions.
23. Learning to Code Helps Kids Develop a Global Perspective
Speaking about seeing the bigger picture, learning to code can also expose kids to a world of possibilities and helps them develop a global perspective.
With today’s technology the world is more closely connected than ever. At the touch of a few keystrokes kids can connect with each other all across the globe, sharing interests, experiences and worldviews. This connectivity makes it possible to work on a coding project that can be used and enjoyed worldwide, like a game or an app to solve a social issue for their communities.
“This is Google,” he said. “You can find answers to anything. What do you want to search for?”
In one second, he’d pulled up five million page results-pictures and models of windmills I’d never even imagined.”
― William Kamkwamba, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
Developing the empathy needed to experience the world from other people’s perspectives and life experiences is a critically important skill for today’s kids as they face life in the highly-interconnected 21st century.
24. Learning to Code Makes Kids Future Ready
The world we live in is, and will continue to, experiencing dramatic change. Much of this change is driven by technological developments.
Moore’s Law, one measure of how quickly technology is developing, states that the speed of computing processing doubles every 18 months. While we can argue whether the specifics of Moore’s Law still applies 50-plus years later, what is indisputable is that technological change continues to happen at an exponential rate with no end in sight.
“[Coding] provides the tools to create a world of limitless possibilities, where they can build their own paths and solutions in their own way. Overall, coding is a very empowering skill.”
Kids who learn to code are ready to face their ever-changing future. Not just because they develop an understanding of how technology works and affects every aspect of their lives, but also because they develop the resilience, skills, and abilities to respond productively to those changes.
25. Coders Go from Being Consumers to Being Tech Creators
Kids who learn to code move from being passive consumers of technology to being active creators, creating their own technological solutions.
Through the act of becoming a maker kids learn that they have choices and can influence the world around them. They don’t have to accept things as they are. They can make things better and more to their liking. They might even change the world through their creations.
“…I know from history that when you give makers the right tools and inspiration, they have the potential to change the world.”
― Tim Bajarin, Futurist
26. Learning to Code Prepares Kids for Academic Success
Kids who learn to code develop the hard and soft skills that support academic achievement.
Learning to code exposes kids to mathematical principles. While working on coding projects kids develop problem solving skills, and many different kinds of thinking skills: strategic, logical, critical, abstract, and algorithmic. Kids also learn how pay attention to detail, concentrate, and persevere. By working in teams kids practice communication skills, develop their self-confidence and their ability to take risks.
And, perhaps most importantly, kids experience how much fun and satisfaction can come from learning and making something new.
Many Good Reasons for Kids Learning How to Code
It’s become common wisdom that coding teaches kids the skills and abilities they need to succeed in the 21st century. Here we’ve gathered 26 reasons why we agree. Perhaps you can think of even more ways kids who learn to code will benefit from the experience.
“Today’s world needs a workforce of creative, curious, and self-directed lifelong learners who are capable of conceiving and implementing novel ideas.”
― Salman Khan, Founder of Khan Academy
But maybe the best reason to have kids learn coding is where we started our list: Learning to Code is Fun.
Most good programmers do programming not because they expect to get paid or get adulation by the public, but because it is fun to program.”
― Linus Torvalds, Software engineer and principal force behind the development of the Linux kernel