How Teaching Young Girls How to Code is Beneficial to Their Future - a volunteer blog by Athena Baker

Thanks to Athena Baker for this volunteer blog post for Tech Girls Movement Foundation.

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As a writer and former volunteer of  100 Girls in Code, I have been fascinated with the way languages are structured and why learning how to code is important.

Although I wasn’t the best programmer in the classroom(nor do I have the patience to sit through a coding problem while I’m busy typing up a five-page essay a week before it’s due, ha ha), learning how to code nevertheless taught me to think for myself in a world where hundreds of opinions surround me every single day.

Despite the fact that we now live in a world where more girls are participating in STEM fields, most girls are still dissuaded from learning how to code. This is not only disappointing, but it is very stifling to America’s evergrowing, technological based economy.

According to a leading learning expert at Project Lead the Way(PLTW), a non-profit organization, computer science builds skills in a number of areas including math, problem-solving, creative thinking, and so on.

As such, much of America’s economy depends on the brilliant minds of intelligent, creative individuals (including girls). Not to mention that most of the world’s greatest computer programmers such as Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper, are females, according to Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen from Tech Girls Movement Foundation and Adroit Research. So, it would especially be shameful if girls right now do not have access to the resources or even the privilege to become the next generation of successful engineers, web-developers, and programmers as their earlier counterparts.

In order to better understand why learning how to code is important,  let’s fire up our laptops and unleash our inner superhero(s) as we take a look into how teaching young girls how to code is beneficial to their future.

Becoming Better Organizers

As equally important as it is to make sure that your code works, it is also important to make sure that your code is well-organized. This can be as simple as typing up a lot of comments in order to help users understand how your code works or breaking your code up into readable functions.

To better understand what I’m saying, let’s take a look at this old magic-8-ball program that I wrote using Python2 code when I was in my second year of college:

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In this example, I’ve created two functions: one called “def magic8ball(question)”, which allows the user to “ask the magic-8-ball” a question  while the computer “randomly” decides on either of the following “answers” as shown in the if-elif-else statements. In other words, this is the “front end” of my code.

The other is is called the “def countSixes(n).” This makes sure that the user can continue to ask the “magic-8-ball” a question. In other words, this is the “back end” of my code.

Altogether, these two functions help to make the code more readable, combined with the use white space.

This way, even if the user doesn’t 100% understand how the code works, at least he or she can get an idea. This is especially true when he or she reads the comments, which in this case are the the red letters right after the “#” sign.

Although I haven’t coded in awhile, it is because of these skills that I have learned to better organize my schedule and this article as a whole. This way, it’s as readable as the code that I typed into my old program shell.

Pretty cool, huh?

Becoming Better Problem-Solvers

Whether it’s creating their own full-fledged visual novels using RenPy or solving Math problems while creating the world’s greatest Minecraft game level, learning how to code can help young girls become better problem-solvers.

Because coding utilizes basic math principles and logic skills, even if someone isn’t a math expert, learning how to code can utilize these skills together.

For instance, let’s take a closer look at the magic8ball code:

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As you can see in this def countSixes(n) function, the object of this function is to make sure that the magic8ball continues to work as long as the user “asks” a question.

To do this, the magic8ball “randomly” chooses a number after the user “asks” a question using a “while loop”, which makes the program run for as long as the user wants it to run,  and some basic math in order for the “magic8ball” to give the user any of the following “responses” numbered 1-6.

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Although it takes a bit of trial and error in order for the program to work, it is because coding requires girls to use basic math and logic in order to create a program such as this.

In other words, coding is applied logic, math, and organization.

Becoming Better At Cracking Other Languages

To be fair, learning how to code won’t help you become fluent in French in less than a day. However, because coding relies heavily on syntax and all language depends on syntax (or how our English teachers would say, “grammar”), it can help girls especially learn to understand how human grammar works.

For instance, some high-level computer languages such as Python require users to type in the correct syntax byte by byte. Otherwise, the program will not be able to understand what the user typed in and therefore will not be able to run.

This is similar to how humans interact with each other on a daily basis and cannot understand each other’s languages(in some ways, more than one).

Fortunately, unlike learning human foreign languages according to David Dodge’s Coding for Beginners,

“There are many coding concepts that are common to nearly every programming language in the world. Barring slight changes in syntax, the concepts are still legible by nearly anyone with programming proficiency.”

So at least you would have a better chance of becoming fluent a bunch of coding languages in less than a year than a human language in one.

Becoming Better At Paying Attention to Details

As you might have already noticed in the examples above, there is a lot that goes into the making of a program. However, the more you learn how to code, the easier it is to catch whatever mistakes are made in your program. This can especially help young girls if they plan on going into the arts or sciences.

Fortunately, because some languages such as Python can detect if the user made a syntax error by highlighting that mistake in red (once compiled), it’s easier for users not to have to search around their program for that mistake.

However, for logic and math errors, it is best to run the code multiple times in order to catch whatever mistakes were “calculated” into the computer.

After all, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if your answer to “1” + “1” was “11” as opposed to “2” just because of a simple syntax error?

BUT Most Importantly…

Coding Helps Girls Build the Confidence that THEY Need To Succeed

The good thing about learning how to code is even if you are not the best programmer in the classroom, learning how to code is great way to help young girls especially learn how to succeed in life.

No need to be afraid of reaching for a manual or handling all of the dirty details just because you’re not “technical enough.”

If you would like to learn more about why young girls should especially know how to code, check out these free resources located on the Tech Girls Movement Foundation site.

In Conclusion

Because coding teaches young girls how to become…

1.      Better problem-solvers

2.      Better organizers

3.      More detail-oriented

4.      Better language crackers

5.      Become more confident

It is a highly valuable skill and thus should be taught to girls of all ages and backgrounds.

In the meantime, what did you find interesting about this article? Are there any other reasons as to why girls should learn how to code? Who is your favourite woman of code?

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Maryland born writer Athena Zhang Baker has been writing all kinds of various articles, stories, and reviews since she was in seventh grade. As of now, she is continuing to write various articles on Computer Science such as “Ada Lovelace: The Making of an Ideal Liberal Arts Student” while running a Manga and Manhwa Club in Memphis, TN.