Tabitha had become interested in coding a while back when she had found a book at the library. She has since returned that book, but was quite interested when the opportunity arose for her to review Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook written by Grant Smith and published by Workman Publishing. I figured this was an important interest to encourage, seeing as computers are so important in everyday life.
This 566-page, 8"x 6" softcover "Big Fat Notebook" is the newest of a series. There are also "Big Fat Notebook" study guides for Math, Science, American History, World History, and English Language Arts. I love that these are put out by the makers of Brain Quest. Tabitha used to love her Brain Quest workbook when she was a preschooler, and so did I. So, I was quite intrigued to learn they had these books for middle schoolers (recommended ages 11-14). I am definitely contemplating adding the other books to our homeschool library.
This Computer Science and Coding study guide is recommended for those who may be having trouble with their computer science class, or with a coding project. Perhaps you already had a class and would like to refresh your memory, this would work as well. Tabitha has been using it to teach herself the basics, and I figured it would be a great way for me to learn, because well, computers and technology never really have been "my thing," and I would like to change that.
There are eight units in this "Big Fat Notebook," which are then broken down further into chapters (between 2-9 chapters for each unit, for a total of 39). Here are the subjects you and your students will learn about in this book.
- Unit 1: Computing Systems
- Unit 2: Data and Analysis
- Unit 3: Software Engineering
- Unit 4: Algorithms and Programming
- Unit 5: Universal Programming Principles
- Unit 6: Programming with Scratch
- Unit 7: Programming in Python
- Unit 8:Web Development
I appreciate that the book starts with the basics, allowing the student to learn what computer science is and what computers really are, along with their background. I mean, yes, children these days use computers or tablets, or phones, all the time from a very young age, but I think there is definitely a benefit to understanding the basics. I love that it looks at what is and is not computer science. Sorry, no, playing a video game is NOT computer science. Programming your own IS.
I really love the fact that the book looks like a notebook, complete with highlighting and doodles. As the student works through the book it helps to know the way it has been organized.
Vocabulary words are highlighted in yellow and definitions are in boxes:
Important people, places, dates, and terms are written in blue:
There are doodles, graphics, and charts to show big ideas.
I really do love that humor is added with these graphics.
And the charts really help the visual learners.
And main ideas are underlined.
Each chapter concludes with a "Check Your Knowledge" section.
The answers are then shared on the following pages.
Tabitha has been working though this book, doing about a chapter a week. She reads and then rereads if she needs to make sure she is comprehending. She takes notes in a notebook, and answer the questions there as well. Even though there is some room to answer questions in the book, I have found there isn't really enough to write out the answers all the time. So, we are using the book more as a study guide and textbook, keeping it fresh for younger siblings.
Though you do not have to work though the book in order, in fact it is color coded to be able to easily go to the unit you are interested in learning about, Tabitha prefers to work in order, as do I. Personally, I can't wait until she gets to the chapters on programming with Scratch and Python. It looks very interesting.
From what I have been able to tell, not being very knowledgeable myself in computer science, this book is a wonderful foundation for the age range it is meant for, along with beginners of any age (i.e. me as an adult with no clue). The information is laid out in an inviting fashion and makes learning fun. I definitely recommend this as an addition to your homeschool library. And I definitely want to look into the other books in this series.
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