Here are five of the most important coding concepts that every young learner should know:
As the foundation of any computer programming language, variables act as “containers” that “hold” information. These containers then store this information for later use. For example, imagine you are visiting the homepage of a website. Once you land on this page, a dialog box pops into view with this simple greeting: “Hi! What’s your name?” This dialog box is a variable! In this code, the programmer could name this variable “visitorName.” This means that when you type your name into the form and hit submit, your information would be stored in the “visitorName” variable. The programmer could then reference this variable at any time to access the information it contains.
Data structures allow programmers to streamline data collection when a large amount of related information is involved. Let’s go back to our “visitorName” variable from above, but imagine the computer programmer needs to store and reference 10 different visitors’ names rather than just one. Rather than creating 10 different variables for each new visitor — which would increase the sheer amount of text in the program and make adding or removing new contacts difficult — the programmer could simply use a data structure to contain all related variables. In this case, the data structure would be a List. With this List data structure, the programmer only needs to create one variable rather than 10, which means the code would be much more flexible to change.
A control structure analyzes variables and selects a direction in which to go determined from the given parameters. For example, when a computer program is running, the code is being read by the computer line by line from top to bottom and (for the most part) left to right. As the code is being read, the computer will reach a point where it needs to make a “decision” (based on strict rules set by the computer programmer). At this point, the code could do things like jump to a different part of the program, re-run a certain piece of code again, or simply skip a block of code altogether. Whatever parameters are set by the programmer will affect the code flow. Think of control structures as the directions your program needs to allow it to make choices and execute commands under different conditions.
Just like in the English language, computer programming follows a syntax or a set of rules that define particular layouts of letters and symbols. Proper syntax ensures the computer reads and interprets code accurately. For example, let’s consider a simple email address and its required syntax.
In the physical world, tools allow workers to perform tasks that would otherwise be extremely difficult (think of how a hammer helps drive a nail into a piece of wood and what this job would be like without tools). Similarly, a tool in computer programming is a piece of software that helps programmers write code much faster. For example, one of the most important tools for computer programmers is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE). An IDE can check the syntax of code for errors, organize files, autocomplete commonly used code, and help you easily navigate through your code. Tools are the final crucial element to code, as they streamline processes and ensure accuracy.