Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston, Texas. Child care Montessori provider in Champions, The Woodlands, Spring Texas Greystone House Montessori Schools Houston
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Computational thinking skills is a new term coming to the forefront in the education world. In our age of increasing complexity, it seems it’s going to be an essential skill up there with other thinking skills like the ability to compare and contrast, imagining “what if”, consider cause and effect, notice details, and verbalize thoughts. Computational thinking has to do with recognizing patterns and sequences, creating algorithms, devising tests for finding and fixing errors, reducing the general to the precise, and expanding the precise to the general.

Interestingly, Montessori has many of these specific skills inherent in its method. For example, early on children explore patterns and sequencing in using the pink tower and the broad stair. Later in the curriculum after learning the sounds of letters, blending those sounds into recognizable words and games of rhyming fit easily into the mode of computational thinking. The children develop algorithms as they learn to assemble the binomial and trinomial cubes, learn to count by two’s using cards and counters, and finally discover mathematical progression in decimal system work. From the beginning, Montessori children learn to find errors in the “control of error” built into the knobbed cylinders, the spindle box, and the red rods. They quickly learn that if the equipment won’t fit back the way it was, there’s an error. If they spill there’s plenty of equipment with which to clean up so they can “fix the problem”. Because the Montessori method is so emphatic about real instead of cartoonish, children can trust that they can use pictures and equipment to go from general to precise. To move from precise to general concepts, in more advanced lessons children learn that all plants and insects have certain parts. Using sounds to create words makes the “precise to general” concept almost intuitive.

Laura Pappano in Inside School Turnarounds says, “Computing practices like reformulating tough problems into ones we know how to solve, seeing trade-offs between time and space, and pipelining (allowing the next action in line to begin before the first completes the sequence) have many applications. Consider the buffet line. When you go to a lunch buffet, you see the forks and knives are the first station. I find that very annoying. They should be last. You shouldn’t have to balance your plate while you have your fork and knife.” Dr. Jeannette Wing of Microsoft, who equates a child filling her backpack to caching (how computers retrieve and store information needed later), sees the buffet’s inefficiency as a failure to apply logical thinking and sequencing. Like computational thinking, the Montessori method is very precise in sequencing every lesson, making certain that no step is left out, making certain that the child arrives at the correct answer.

When we study the science professions, our children learn to apply the scientific method of turn observations into a hypothesis, design a control group, and do an experiment to test the theory. Practicing asking questions that have quantifiable answers is a part of the new computational thinking. So just like our children study biology, chemistry, and physics, our preschoolers are effortlessly absorbing computational thinking skills, and in the process refining what we mean by digital native.