Computational thinking

Learn about computational thinking, abstraction and pattern recognition.

This lesson includes:

  • a video to help you understand pattern recognition
  • a video to help you understand abstraction
  • three activities to try out


Computational thinking is breaking down a problem and finding solutions a computer can understand.

There are four key cornerstones to computational thinking:

  • decomposition - breaking down a complex problem or system into smaller, more manageable parts.
  • pattern recognition – looking for similarities among and within problems.
  • abstraction – focusing on the important information only, ignoring irrelevant detail.
  • algorithms - developing a step-by-step solution to the problem, or the rules to follow to solve the problem.
The four cornerstones of computational thinking

Pattern recognition

Watch this film to find out more about how pattern recognition is an important part of computational thinking.

When a problem has been decomposed, you look for patterns and steps that can be repeated.

For example, if you were making a sandwich, the act of slicing bread, cheese or tomato re-uses the same pattern of slicing.


Watch this film to find out more about abstraction.

Abstraction is about telling a computer which information is important and what can be ignored.


Activity 1

Take the Bitesize Computational Thinking test to check how much you have learned.

Activity 2

Test your knowledge of algorithms and variables with this quiz from SAM Learning.

Programming concepts

Activity 3

Test your knowledge of flowcharts with this quiz from SAM Learning.


Where next?

In this lesson you have learnt about computational thinking and decomposing problems.

Click on the links below for more help with computing:

Watch more clips about computational thinking in the series How to Think Like a Computer.

There's more to learn

Bitesize Daily lessons
KS3 Computer Science
Jobs that use Computing and ICT
KS3 Computer Science
Practise coding with Scratch
Play CBBC games