Please recommend a kid's coding curriculum
June 8, 2015 11:11 AM   Subscribe

My quite bright 9-year-old son has repeatedly expressed great enthusiasm and curiosity about learning to code. I would be delighted to help him, but I'd appreciate a little advice about how to go about that.

I have read answers to previous questions, which do not do very much more than name-check Scratch or Lego Mindstorms, etc. I am grateful, but would appreciate a more detailed answer that tells me where to find (for instance) a list of problems and projects in coding that help those who are teaching themselves coding to figure out elemental coding strategies -- not unlike, e.g., problem sets in math.

An ideal answer would tell me what language my son should start with & recommend a provocative book/text that he could read and be challenged by. I'm willing to spend a little money on this, as he seems pretty serious about it, so no need to confine this to free stuff.
posted by Mr. Justice to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
I say start with something like Python. I'd get him a newer-generation RaspberryPi and any of the raspi cookbooks, along with maybe something like Python for Kids: A Playful Introduction to Programming. I suggest the RaspberryPi because it's extensible, and it takes the "coding the thing on the screen" to "coding the thing on the screen that makes this little doodad do stuff!"
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:16 AM on June 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

You might take a look at the RUR-PLE project, which uses Python to teach via elementary problem solving (to wit, using code to direct a robot around a small arena, but graduating to more complicated sets of instructions and tasks).
posted by jquinby at 11:28 AM on June 8, 2015

Jeroo is an intro to the Java programming language. There are a series of activities, and a guide to integrating into other curricula. He'll get through the Jeroo activities pretty quickly, but get a sense of some coding basics in the process.

I don't have a curriculum recommendation, but you can find some free books at Green Tree Press while you decide what to buy.

Once he's comfortable with basic programs, there are a bunch of programming challenges in the HP CodeWars website. The challenges cover several skill levels and include answers for some problems.
posted by rakaidan at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2015

If he's into music at all he might find 'Sonic Pi' to be fun. It's free, runs on the desktop (or on a Raspberry Pi), and is a really creative platform.

They've tried it out as a learning language for kids, and there's a whole curriculum that maybe you could go through with him.

I've enjoyed playing with it lately -- it is great as you get immediate audio feedback from it while you're writing code.

Some details here:

If you try it out, I'd love to hear about your experience.
posted by jpziller at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Bitsbox is subscription box that comes with different coding projects every month. We've gotten two so far and my daughter has enjoyed them a lot.

Hour of Code also has some good links & resources.
posted by mogget at 2:14 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

My child is 6, so this might be too easy for yours, but he's learned a lot about the thought process of coding from the ipad app Hopscotch. What he makes is only viewable within Hopscotch, but he can make playable games, and that's very encouraging for him.
posted by xo at 4:21 PM on June 8, 2015

Have you asked your kid why he wants to learn to code? Would he rather make a computer game, or an app, or a website, or does he want to control a robot?

I feel like he needs a project and a bunch of sample code, more than he needs formal problem sets. My nine-year-old self would've been really happy with a copy of Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python, if such a thing had existed back then.
posted by yarntheory at 4:42 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

Scratch, and a Makey Makey.

Nine-year-old niece-approved and highly-recommended.

Upon preview, I see I name-checked Scratch, which you asked us not to do. Oops.

That's why I like the Makey Makey - it forces you to think of a project for which you need code.

Here are a few projects to get you started

The Banana Piano (which you can code in Scratch to make other noises besides piano keys)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:59 PM on June 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have no idea what any of you are talking about, but Code Academy changed my then-11-year-old's life after I asked this question.

He learned to create and also to modify (and that's as technical an explanation as this luddite can provide).
posted by malibustacey9999 at 10:24 PM on June 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Raspberry Pi advice is good, especially because it involves hardware as well as software. The right book for that is Adventures In Raspberry Pi, which will get him started on various good things to know, get him thinking about coding a real language (Python), using a real OS (Linux), and working with interesting projects involving games, music, and tangible computer hardware that won't blow up the house or electrocute the cat.

Depending on your kid's personality, you would do well to also get him into a camp or club or workshop or the like. What's available to him hinges on where you might live.

For example, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub (201 East Broadway, North Little Rock, AR 72114) has summer camps and after-school workshops for kids:
The Young Maker's camp is offered throughout the summer from 8 am - noon, Monday through Friday for ages 8-10 years old. $150/week per child.

June 8th - 12th: All About Electricity
June 29th - July 3rd: Computer Tech
July 20th - July 24th: Fab Lab
Also, after-school weekly workshops:
Tuesdays are “All About Electricity”
Wednesdays are for “Computer Tech”
Thursdays are for “Fab Lab”
If your kid is 9, he's eligible and ready for the camps now and the after-school stuff after his next birthday. These things are good for showing him possibilities for his future, building excitement about various interrelated areas of research and development, and introducing him to kids with similar interests. (Also, space camp!)

And find out what his school offers, of course.
posted by pracowity at 7:23 AM on June 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coding can be interesting and fun in itself, but it's primarily a means to an end. To many different possible ends, of course. Lots of kid like something visual which is one of the attractions of Logo. My son programmed Mandelbot Zoom programs (I forget how old he was) like this, though that's not one of his programs. We also had fun programming music on the Commodore 64.

My point being to encourage him in his other interests to make coding more interesting and productive.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:15 AM on June 9, 2015

My town's schools showed the kids a web site with a game that you play & score by writing some kind of code. (Maybe Python, I'm not sure.) It could be

If he's that young, giving him some hardware and a book might be frustrating.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:38 AM on June 9, 2015

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