computational fluency my philosophy

The ultimate goal: ‘computational fluency’

The term ‘computational thinking‘ is becoming more and more popular in K-12 education to describe a fundamental problem-solving skillset based on computer science techniques. I have been pondering over where the application of computational thinking takes us cognitively, beyond mechanical problem-solving, and I believe there is a clear analogy to language, music, and our other human cognitive faculties as a form of individual expression. I like the term computational fluency to describe such a cognitive ability, from the world of mathematics (Russell, 2000).

The Overview of the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics expresses computational fluency as:

Students have different abilities, needs, and interests. Yet everyone needs to be able to use mathematics in his or her personal life, in the workplace, and in further study. All students deserve an opportunity to understand the power and beauty of mathematics. Students need to learn a new set of mathematics basics that enable them to compute fluently and to solve problems creatively and resourcefully.

which is also described by Russell and referenced in Gojack and here. Its interpretation in practice seems to be directed narrowly towards numerical calculations. I think this is missing the big picture, just as computers began with the limited but important purpose of performing rapid and accurate calculations.

I see teaching computational thinking and programming ultimately as a means to develop computational fluency as a form of self-expression, enabling innovative applications not only in math, science, and engineering, but also even in traditionally non-technical subjects such as art, literature, and music. In other words, I believe computational fluency is an important cognitive process that can enable a new way for individuals to express their creativity, not only in day-to-day problem-solving tasks, but also in ways that channel and magnify their other cognitive abilities to solve and explore new problems and uncharted areas.

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