By Ananya Rao
What Is An Algorithm?
algorithm is a set of step-by-step procedures, or a set of rules to follow, for completing a specific task or solving a particular problem. Algorithms are all around us. The recipe for baking a cake, the method we use to solve a long division problem, and the process of doing laundry are all examples of an algorithm. Here’s what baking a cake might look like, written out as a list of instructions, just like an algorithm:
Types of Algorithms
Algorithms are classified based on the concepts that they use to accomplish a task. While there are many types of algorithms, the most fundamental types of computer science algorithms are:
Example of an Algorithm: Solving a Rubik’s Cube
There are a number of different algorithms, from simple to very complicated, that exist for solving a Rubik’s cube. Below is just one simple algorithm. First, let’s specify a notation to use (similar to picking a programming language).
Each of the six faces of a Rubik’s cube can be represented by the first letter of their name:
Step 1: The Cross
A sorting algorithm is an algorithm that puts elements of a list in a certain order, usually in numerical or lexicographical order. Sorting is often an important first step in algorithms that solves more complex problems. There are a large number of sorting algorithms, each with their own benefits and costs. Below, we will focus on some of the more famous sorting algorithms.
Where Algorithms are Used in Computer Science?
Algorithms are used in every part of computer science. They form the field's backbone. In computer science, an algorithm gives the computer a specific set of instructions, which allows the computer to do everything, be it running a calculator or running a rocket. Computer programs are, at their core, algorithms written in programming languages that the computer can understand. Computer algorithms play a big role in how social media works: which posts show up, which ads are seen, and so on. These decisions are all made by algorithms. Google’s programmers use algorithms to optimize searches, predict what users are going to type, and more. In problem-solving, a big part of computer programming is knowing how to formulate an algorithm.
Why are Algorithms Important to Understand?
Algorithmic thinking, or the ability to define clear steps to solve a problem, is crucial in many different fields. Even if we’re not conscious of it, we use algorithms and algorithmic thinking all the time. Algorithmic thinking allows students to break down problems and conceptualize solutions in terms of discrete steps. Being able to understand and implement an algorithm requires students to practice structured thinking and reasoning abilities.
Ananya Rao is studying Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA, and she is an instructor at Juni Learning. She is a biorobotics researcher at CMU, and she is pursuing an additional major in Robotics. She was previously a Digital Technology Intern at GE Transportation and an Assistant Teacher at the National Academy For Learning in Bengaluru, India. Ananya also enjoys dancing, building robots, and writing stories.
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I dedicate my life to science, technology, music and to bringing people together. And I do it my way.