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A Blog on Learning Coding and STEM skills

A recent study found that 76% of parents want their children to end up in STEM-related careers. And with an ever-growing number of jobs requiring knowledge of new technologies, it isn’t very hard to see why. From manufacturing to marketing, most jobs today are dependent on computers for their success. And computers are dependent upon code.

That’s probably why so many parents are hoping to get their kids into coding.

As many as 85% of parents are encouraging their children to learn to code, according to one study. But despite wanting their kids to learn, many parents are at a loss about the best resources available to help kids to code. Where can a parent start when they want to help their child dive into this new field, especially if they don’t know much about coding themselves? We're here to help!

We’ll help you narrow down the options by explaining the different categories of resources out there. Then, you can decide which resources best meet your needs.

Coding Classes

One of the best all-around methods for teaching kids to code is taking a coding class. Coding classes come in a variety of formats and price ranges, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. That can make it tricky to pick the right coding class.

For instance, in-person classes have teachers that regularly interact with their students. This is a huge advantage because it means that students can receive real-time feedback on their questions! However, many live coding classes have limited schedules and require you to live nearby. Depending on where you live, it can be hard to find coding classes near you.

Online classes, on the other hand, allow for flexibility in both scheduling and location, but are often pre-recorded. That can limit their ability to respond to questions quickly, or even at all!

Of course, there are other classes that combine the best of both worlds by hosting live classes on an online platform. These allow for flexibility of location and real-time feedback.

Coding Apps

Coding apps can be a great supplemental resource for kids learning to code. Many kid’s coding apps use bright colors, animations, and fun gameplay to encourage kids to learn the basics of coding. They can be great for getting an understanding of what a conditional or a loop is, but few of them get into the nitty-gritty of real-world coding.

If you are wanting to get the most out of coding apps, it's better to use them in conjunction with an established coding course. That way, the base concepts taught in the coding apps can immediately be used in a more and more specific context.

Coding Challenge

Another useful supplemental activity is a coding challenge.

Coding challenges, or hackathons, are hosted events where coders get the chance to simultaneously reach outside their coding comfort zone and show off their skills. It adds a competitive element to the learning process, which can be a great motivator for many kids.

Usually, there is a specific challenge or set of challenges that must be overcome through the use of code. The difficulty levels can vary greatly between challenges, but that’s part of the fun! Challenges are often teacher-directed events, too. That way, even if a challenge proves too difficult for a kid to figure out on their own, the teacher is there to help them learn and progress.

Coding Camps

While coding classes are the fullest featured and most effective way to learn the intricacies of coding, they do take a while to get through. Sometimes, it can be an effective use of time to move quickly through the basics so you can spend your time on the more advanced skills.

Which is where coding camps come in.

Coding camps, or coding bootcamps, are intensive courses designed to get their students through the basics. That way they can focus on the lessons that they really want to be learning. They save valuable time by teaching a wide variety of coding skills quickly.

Since they only last for a short period of time, they are a great fit for students who have a chunk of free time available to dedicate to learning a new skill. Summer break is a great time for this.

More intensive coding camps can help students to master the basics quickly and take higher-level classes sooner. It's a great way to accelerate their learning.

Coding Books

In today’s connected world, it may seem odd to mention books as being a good coding resource, but there are some definite advantages to the medium.

For one, no one can be online all the time, and books can be a great resource even when screen time is over. Books tend to be a lot more in-depth than many online guides because the authors know that all the necessary information needs to be included upfront. There’s not the option to link to throw in a link to supplemental material.

And, it can be a lot easier to flip between a physical book and what’s happening on the screen without losing your place. Though, that can be a matter of preference.

Of course, the effectiveness of any book as a coding resource depends greatly on which book you’re using. It can be difficult to know if a specific book will cover the things your kid wants to learn. Make sure to choose a book that’s listed as a reliable resource for kids to get the most value.


No matter where your kid ends up on their coding journey, there are amazing benefits to learning to code. And that will only become more true as time goes on.

Coding, as a field, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the list of amazing resources is only continuing to grow. These 5 types of resources are a great way to get started, but there are so many other great resources out there. We encourage you to find somewhere to start and explore from there!

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Project Intro

Use a 2D array to make a Tic Tac Toe game — and practice using conditionals, loops, and functions!

This is a challenging project for Java coders familiar with basic concepts, and is also great practice for AP Computer Science students.

  • Coding language: Java

  • Approx. lines of code: ~150

  • Approx. time needed to build: 30-60 min

Who is this for?

  • Coding experience in language: Beginner

  • Challenge Level: Hard

Learning Outcomes

Core concepts practiced:

  • 2D arrays

  • Functions

Prerequisite concepts to know/review:

  • Variables

  • Input and output

  • Conditionals

  • Loops

Just using these core concepts, we can create a whole game of Tic Tac Toe from start to finish.

Moreover, we learn how we can turn a commonly played game into code by learning to think like a programmer. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Project Demo

Click run to play the Tic Tac Toe Java game yourself below!

You can also view my project solution code if you get stuck.

Specific features to consider:

  1. After asking us for our names, the program prints out a 3x3 board filled with dashes, signifying empty spots.

  2. Each turn it asks either player 1 or player 2 to enter a row and col index which is where they want to place their x and o, and then the board is printed again with the x or o in the right spot.

  3. If the position the player entered is “off the board” or already has an x or o on it, then our program notifies the player, who is prompted to enter another row and col.

  4. Once the player wins by getting 3 in a row, column, or diagonal, the program prints that player 1 or 2 has won and prints out the final board.

General order of steps to implement:

  1. Create a Tic Tac Toe board and fill it with dashes.

  2. Create a function that draws the board like a square.

  3. Keep track of the player’s turn and what symbol they are using.

  4. Keep asking the user to enter a row and col until they are valid.

  5. Set the right position on the board to the proper symbol.

  6. Create a function that checks if either player has won.

  7. Check if the game has ended in a tie.

  8. Use a loop to keep the game going.

How do we do each of these steps?

Step 1: Create a 3x3 array to represent the tic tac toe board and fill it with dashes.

We need to make a 2D array of characters, which can be x, o, or -.

Hint: We can use the following line of code to make a 3x3 array of chars: char[][] board = new char[3][3]

Now we have to fill our board with dashes.

Hint: We can use a nested for loop to iterate through each position on our board. Inside both for loops, we can set board[i][j] equal to a dash.

Step 2: Ask the users for their names.

First, we import the Scanner to help us get input from the user, by adding import java.util.Scanner to the top of our program.

Then, we create our Scanner variable.

Next, we print out a message asking the user to type in their name using System.out.print().

We store their input in a String called p1.

Do the same for p2.

Step 3: Create a function that draws the board and prints it out like a 3x3 square.

In order for our function to draw the board and print it out, do we need to pass a parameter into the function? Do we need to return anything?

Hint: We need to pass in the board 2D array in order for the function to be able to print it. We don’t need to return anything since the function is simply printing out the board.

Inside our function, we need to print out each position on our board.

Hint: If we do System.out.println(), then each position is on a new line.

Hint: If we do System.out.print(), then all of the positions are on one line.

Hint: We can do System.out.print() in the inner for loop, and do System.out.println() at the end of the outer for loop so that it starts a new line after each row has been printed.

Step 4: Print out the correct player’s turn and store the player’s char (x or o).

We need a way to keep track of which player’s turn it is in our game.

Hint: We can use a boolean called player1 which is true if it is player 1’s turn and false if it is player 2’s turn.

We can use a conditional to check whose turn it is.

Also, we can use string concatenation to print out the player’s name.

Step 5: Ask the user for the row and col and check if it is valid.

Print a message asking the user for a row and use the Scanner to get their input, storing it in a variable called row; repeat this for col.

Now, why would the row and col the user entered not be valid?

Hint: If the user types a row and col that is a spot that is not on the board, then the row and col aren’t valid. Use a conditional to check if the row and col are not greater than 2 and not less than 0.

Hint: If the user types a row and col that is a spot that already has an x or o on it, then the row and col aren’t valid. Use a conditional to check if the position on the board at row and col does not already have an x or o.

Step 6: Use a loop to keep asking the player to enter a valid row and col.

If the user enters a row and col that is out of bounds or a row and col that already has an x or o on it, then we want to ask the user to re-enter a row and col. We can use a loop to do this!

Hint: We can use a while(true) loop and break once the player has entered a valid row and col.

Step 7: Set the right position on the board to the player char.

Outside of the while loop, we know that we have a valid row and col. We can get the position on the board by doing board[row][col].

Now we can set this position to be equal to the char of the player, which we stored in the variable c.

Step 8: Create a function that checks if either player has won.

In tic tac toe, a player wins if they have 3 of their symbols in one row, column, or diagonal.

Let’s start with rows. We can use a for loop to iterate through each row i.

Inside the for loop, we can use a conditional to check if board[i][0] equals board[i][1] and if board[i][1] equals board[i][2]. Remember, we also have to check if board[i][0] doesn’t equal a dash so that we don’t win if there are three empty spots in a row. If that is all true, then we can return the value of board[i][0].

We can repeat similar steps for columns.

There are two diagonals on the board that we have to check. We can use two if statements to check the two diagonals, similar to the if statements we used for rows and columns.

If we reach the end of our function, that means that nobody has won. Here, we can just return a space.

Step 9: Print out which player has won if a player has won.

In our main method, we can use the function we just created to check if a player has won.

Hint: We can use conditionals to check if our function returns x or o. If it returns x, then print that player 1 has won. If it returns o, then print that player 2 has won.

Step 10: Check if the game has ended in a tie.

Tic tac toe ends in a tie if nobody has won and the board is full. We already have checked if someone has won. Now we just need to check if the board is full.

Let’s create a function that returns true if the board is full and false if there are still empty spots on the board. Remember, an empty spot is a dash.

Hint: We can use nested for loops to iterate through each position on the board. Inside the inner for loop, we can use a conditional to check if board[i][j] is equal to -, and if so, return true.

Once we finish going through the nested for loops and find that no position on the board equals a dash, then we know that the board is full so we can return true.

Step 11: Use a loop to keep the game going.

We can create a boolean called gameEnded and initially set it to false. Inside the if statement where we check if a player has won or if it is a tie, we can set gameEnded to true.

We can make a while loop, with its condition simply being gameEnded, so that the program keeps asking a player to enter a row and col until there is a winner or a tie.

If we run our program, we notice that the player doesn’t alternate every round. How can we fix this?

Hint: If there is no winner and no tie, we can switch the player1 boolean by writing the following: player1 = !player1. The ! means not, so if player1 was true, this line sets it to not true, or false, and if player1 was false, this line sets it to not false, or true.

After the while loop is over, we can draw the board a final time so that both players can see the final state of the board..

This article originally appeared on

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

Our math camps and classes utilize a discovery-based and project-based learning approach. They encourage kids to find a love of math and empower students with the foundational skills and learning prowess they need to take on more advanced math courses and even the most math-intensive career fields.

In this post, you’ll learn what makes these courses so impactful, from our discovery-based learning approach to the process by which we select our outstanding instructors and pair them with students for 1-on-1 learning.

What Is Discovery-Based Learning?

The premise of discovery-based learning is simple: students learn best when they are put at the center of acquiring and building knowledge. This is why our instructors use guided activities to unlock the mathematical intuitions that the student already possesses.

Through engaging, hands-on projects and guiding questions, students in our courses take the lead in learning new concepts. Meanwhile, the instructor takes the role of a guide, adding suggestions and correcting misconceptions as needed. By taking the student’s discoveries and applying them to concrete exercises and comprehensive projects, students become experts in each mathematical concept they discover.

In each of these courses, students will acquire and build the in-depth, conceptual knowledge they need to succeed in their more advanced mathematics courses and future career fields.

Why Should Students Take Our Elementary Mathematics Courses?

The traditional classroom isn’t for everyone

Kids are often placed with 25 or more students in a traditional mathematics classroom and pushed to find the right answer to a given question. As a result, very early in their lives, students begin to see their mathematics skills as fixed: they’re either good or bad at math. With little space to enjoy the process of learning, most students disengage — never truly harnessing their mathematical potential.

Extracurricular mathematics programs often reinforce those sentiments. Rather than focusing on conceptual understanding, embedding elements of creativity, or hands-on activities, such programs use “skill and drill” learning. While fluency practice is a crucial component of developing mathematical skills, it is certainly not the only component.

Re-imagining the learning process

Math In Action challenges the traditional narratives. We empower students to explore, think critically, and ask questions. Rather than merely categorizing an answer as right or wrong, we implore students to ask why.

By leading with these questions, our instructors give students the space to explore new concepts and create meaningful connections. Because of this crucial shift in perspective, our students find their sessions opportunities for endless curiosity and possibilities.

Nurturing a student’s intrinsic motivation — their desire to learn because it is intrinsically gratifying rather than for a reward — sparks a life-long interest in learning that drives both academic and future career success. Offering a student a sense of autonomy and control in the learning process, exactly as discovery-based learning endeavors to do, is an excellent way to foster intrinsic motivation.

What Will Students Learn in Our Elementary Mathematics Courses?

In Early Elementary, kids will gain a deep appreciation for sums, differences, multiplication, and division. They will discover how to represent and interpret data and how these necessary skills are applied to understand time, money, length, and other basic units. By the end of the course, they’ll have improved their confidence by mastering complicated topics like fractions and measurement.

Late Elementary lets kids delve even deeper into the applications of arithmetic. They’ll discover place values, rounding, and multi-digit multiplication and division. Kids will understand how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions and decimals. They’ll even have the chance to work with lines, angles, shapes, and coordinate planes!

Students will be paired with instructors whose focus is to guide the student in articulating their learning, but kids will have the central role in building their mathematics knowledge by working through discovery activities, games, and hands-on projects.

Example: counting penguins