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Education Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Book Or Game To Introduce Kids To Programming? 246

New submitter connorblack writes "My very gifted nephew is about to turn nine this month and I would love to get him some sort of fun, engaging book or game to introduce him to the basic concepts of programming. I have a feeling if approached correctly he would absolutely devour the subject (he is already working through mathematics at an 8th grade level). What I first was looking at were the Lego Mindstorm programmable robots- which would have been perfect, if only they weren't around 300 dollars... So if there's anything similar (or completely new!) you've either heard praise about or used yourself with your kids, it would be great to get a recommendation. Also if possible I would want to stick to an under 100 dollar budget." Would a nine year old be able to follow The Little Schemer?
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Ask Slashdot: Best Book Or Game To Introduce Kids To Programming?

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  • Scratch (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @08:59PM (#41665227)

    My kids started using Scratch when he was 6 and has written two player race car games and other stuff with it.

  • Minecraft (Score:5, Informative)

    by rwa2 ( 4391 ) * on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:02PM (#41665239) Homepage Journal

    Google for Redstone Circuits and go to town. There's that running EE joke that you can build any logic circuit with nothing but NOT gates. Redstone pretty much gives you exactly that.

    For real programming, maybe just throw them at http://learnpython.org/ [learnpython.org] and give them an ipython shell to play with until they're ready to start programming a dungeonmaster / chatbot for their minecraft server. That's my plan with my kids (10 & 7) at the moment.

  • Code Monster (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skidge ( 316075 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:06PM (#41665279)

    Check out Code Monster: http://www.crunchzilla.com/code-monster [crunchzilla.com]

    It's a game-like site that teaches javascript programming.

  • Scratch (Score:5, Informative)

    by goertzenator ( 878548 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:06PM (#41665281)
    Scratch, visual multimedia programming system from MIT. http://scratch.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]
  • Scratch by MIT (Score:5, Informative)

    by JRHelgeson ( 576325 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:13PM (#41665325) Homepage Journal

    http://scratch.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

    It is what has gotten my 5 year old engaged.

  • SpaceChem (Score:5, Informative)

    by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:13PM (#41665327) Homepage
  • by chalker ( 718945 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:34PM (#41665447) Homepage

    Way back when, at that age, I first got interested in programming via the game Robot Odyssey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robot_Odyssey)

    According to the Wikipedia page there are modern day clones and derivatives:

    "The engine for the game was written by Warren Robinett, and variants of it were used in many of The Learning Company's graphical adventure games of the time, including Rocky's Boots, Gertrude's Secrets, Gertrude's Puzzles, and Think Quick!, all of which are similar but easier logic puzzle games. The gameplay and visual design were derived from Robinett's influential Atari 2600 video game, Adventure.

    Carnage Heart involves programming mechas that then fight without any user input.

    Cognitoy's MindRover is a relatively recent game which is similar in spirit to Robot Odyssey, but uses different programming concepts in its gameplay.

    ChipWits by Doug Sharp and Mike Johnston, a game for the Apple II, Macintosh, and Commodore 64 computers is similar in both theme and implementation, although the interface to program your robot differed.

    Epsitec Games created Colobot and Ceebot in recent years for Windows machines which are in many ways spiritual successors to Robot Odyssey. In these games the player program machines to accomplish puzzle tasks. Instead of using logic flops, switches, etc., these two games instead teach the player the fundamentals of object oriented programming like Java, C++, or C#.

    One Girl One Laptop productions created a spiritual successor called Gate which uses the same digital logic puzzles as Robot Odyssey.

    There is also a clone written in Java, Droidquest, which contains all of the original levels and an additional secret level."

  • TI-86 Basic (Score:3, Informative)

    by stuporglue ( 1167677 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:46PM (#41665525) Homepage

    My 6 year old has been asking me to teach him to program. He played with kturtle for a little while, but turning is relative to the current position and in degrees, and he always ends up distracted by games and videos.

    Recently I've started teaching him TI-86 Basic. He is very excited about printing things to the screen.

    A couple of pros:
    * It's self contained with no distractions
    * Commands are all on the screen so you don't have to memorize them
    * It's one place where Basic is still useful
    * IO is simple

    The other TI calculators are probably just as good, but I had the 86 in my closet.

  • You (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:47PM (#41665537) Homepage

    Mentors are the most significant educational source. Match wits with the kid. Say "look what I can do, and here's how I did it". Then challenge the kid to do something similar himself. Build from "Hello, world" to a text adventure, or an animation, or a video game, or whatever else he shows some talent in. First just spend time with the kid, and let the programming interest grow naturally. If it doesn't, don't force it.

  • Re:Minecraft (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:59PM (#41665597)

    Seriously, redstone is crazy stuff.

    If you want something a bit more abstract though, why not something like SpaceChem? It's essentially programming disguised as a game, from what I can tell. You have to create algorithms graphically to solve a problem. It's pretty simple as far as the actual "programming" goes, but it gets people thinking along those lines, and it'd let you know if there might be some interest in those sorts of activities, perhaps.

  • Re:Minecraft (Score:5, Informative)

    by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:43PM (#41665781) Homepage

    Another good option is Arduino. Easy to teach basic structure while wiring up lights and buzzers and stuff to make it fun.

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