FUNDAMENTALS OF CODING:
ANALYTIC & SYSTEMATIC THINKING
One of the best methods to learn about coding always starts by looking at some fundamental concepts. In order to excel in coding, one must have an effective thinking process. Prior to writing a code to control a computer-based device, one needs to analyse comprehensively the problem that needs solving, the conditions set, and the limitations one may encounter.
This effective thinking process falls under two main headings, which are analytic thinking and systematic thinking.
Analytic thinking can be defined as the abstract separation of a whole into its constituent parts, in order to study the parts and their relations. In simple terms, it is the ability to identify the key issues from a base of information, the ability to separate a problem into its sub-elements in order to determine the cause and draw conclusions.
Systematic thinking is creating a methodology to solve a problem within a well-defined order. Systematic thinking can be subdivided under four headings:
- Understanding what the problem is and thoroughly analysing it.
- Examining different components of the problem, coming up with multiple solutions.
- Deriving a strategy and evaluating possible solutions aligned with your strategy.
- Being decisive and staying on track with the strategic path chosen.
Once you adapt to this thinking mechanism you are more likely to have the capability to comprehensively evaluate the options and give effective decisions. For coding, this capability is essential. The first step in coding should always be understanding what the objective, conditions and limitations are, and then deriving a solution in a systematic way. Following this methodology, one can effectively code and meet the objectives set. This methodology is demonstrated in the example below.
Q. A sailboat needs to sail to island A, island B and island C and then return to its initial point. What is the most logical order for the sailboat to sail to these islands?In order to come up with a solution, one might answer this question by calculating the distance between the islands in order to figure out the shortest total distance that the sailboat can travel. This way of answering the question would not demonstrate an analytic and systematic thinking ability, as the person answering would have overlooked the objective, conditions and limitations.
Analytic and systematic thinking would involve evaluating the question comprehensively.First of all, the question asks what is the most ‘logical’ order that the sailboat should sail to these islands. Does logical mean the shortest distance, the fastest way, the safest way or the most fuel-efficient way for the sailboat to travel? After clarifying the objective, the factors affecting a sailboat’s travel should be investigated. Factors such as the direction of the wind, ocean currents and weather are critical in determining the route for the sailboat. Once the objective is determined, the methodology and strategy should be derived to come up with a solution.
Following an analytic and systematic thinking approach, one would be in a position to answer the question above effectively. When faced with a problem, one needs to think comprehensively, identify the objective and if needed break down the components of the problem and build a strategy accordingly. Analytical and systematic thinking capabilities are the fundamentals of coding education. When coding a computer program, one needs to understand the objective, evaluate the functions that will be used, and comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of using these functions. Afterwards, a systematic method should be derived and the strategy should be adapted. By following this approach, one would succeed in coding in the shortest amount of time with minimum mistakes.