What is an algorithm?

The new Programme of Study for Computing introduces algorithms in Key stage 1. At Key stage 2 there is a further emphasis on programming, linked to algorithms.  But what is an algorithm?

The BCS/RAEng group who drafted the submission of a draft programme of study to the DfE provided a set of guidance notes, including the following on algorithms:

An algorithm is a precise method of solving a problem. Algorithms range from the simple (such as instructions for changing a wheel on a car) to the ingenious (such as route-finding), and cover many different application areas (for example, cookery, drawing three- dimensional graphics; solving systems of constraints, such as a school timetable; understanding images; numerical simulation, and so on).

An algorithm can be expressed as a program in many different programming languages.

There may be more than one algorithm to solve a single problem, differing in their simplicity, efficiency, or generality. For example, to find a path through a maze, one (simple, slow) algorithm might be to simply walk around at random until you find the exit. Another (more complicated) one would involve remembering where had been to avoid going down the same blind alley twice. Another might be to keep you left hand on the wall and walk till you find the exit (faster, but does not work on all mazes, and so less general).”

You can read the entire document here:  



Heres a fun example of an algorithm from the https://www.code-it.co.uk website

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