What is pattern recognition?

When we decompose a complex problem we often find patterns among the smaller problems we create. The patterns are similarities or characteristics that some of the problems share.

Pattern recognition is one of the four cornerstones of Computer Science. It involves finding the similarities or patterns among small, decomposed problems that can help us solve more complex problems more efficiently.

Pattern recognition is one cornerstone of computational thinking.

What are patterns?

Imagine that we want to draw a series of cats.

All cats share common characteristics. Among other things they all have eyes, tails and fur. They also like to eat fish and make meowing sounds.

Because we know that all cats have eyes, tails and fur, we can make a good attempt at drawing a cat, simply by including these common characteristics.

In computational thinking, these characteristics are known as patterns. Once we know how to describe one cat we can describe others, simply by following this pattern. The only things that are different are the specifics:

  • one cat may have green eyes, a long tail and black fur
  • another cat may have yellow eyes, a short tail and striped fur
Patterns and similarities can be found between different types of cat. All cats have tails, eyes and fur but the characteristics of each can vary from cat to cat.