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This is a pretty great idea. As Melinda Gates recently noted, over the last few decades women's share of computer science degrees went from 37% down to 18%. So how do we get more young women (and men) into coding? The answer may actually be teaching computational thinking rather than coding. At least that is what Ashoka fellow and Swedish social entrepreneur Johan Wendt believes. He created the largest after-school program (teaching math) in Europe before turning his attention to curriculum, which can get more young students into STEM by teaching them to problem solve the way a computer would. The catalyst in that movement across Scandinavia was his book Curly Bracket. It's a graphic novel (part comic book, part textbook) with a designed to teach kids aged 8-13 computational thinking/problem-solving skills. The lead character is an adventurous young girl growing up in a dystopian future where everything is ruled by a mysterious company. Curly Bracket had huge success in Scandinavia (it has been integrated into the curriculum across a number of schools) and Johan is now planning to bring it to the U.S. with an English-language version -- via a Kickstarter that is currently live until November 24th.
Hey Product Hunters! Both Johan (@JohWendt) and myself are excited to have Curly Bracket featured here in the community! I first met Johan in 2008, he later hired me to build Matteboken.se(The Mathbook) in Sweden. It ended up being on of the biggest site for studying mathematics in Sweden and Denmark. We became fast friends and worked on a couple projects together before a publisher called and wanted Johan to write a children's book on coding. He called me and we both agreed that was too narrow a topic to fit our mission of getting more young children into math, science and technology. So we took a step back and looked at programming from 30,000 feet. What is programming? At its most basic level it is problem solving. And the biggest tool in our toolbox to solve problems is computational thinking. Computational thinking has been described as a “Swiss Army Knife for solving problems”. In short, it teaches students to think the way a computer would think by formulating a specific thought process for expressing solutions to problems. So how did we encapsulate that in a book? The more we talked about how to present it, the more we knew we had to make it entertaining, not just educational – so a mash-up between a tutoring book & a graphic novel, with Sci-Fi sprinkled in. That's how Curly Bracket was born. The lead character is an adventurous young girl growing up in a dystopian future where everything is ruled by a mysterious company — and she uses computational thinking to not only survive but succeed. Even after we had an initial run of books we continued to talk to kids – they devoured it (read in hours vs days). We met a mother who read to son before bed – solved problems together – that’s exactly what Johan and I wanted – the interaction between parent and child – and both exploring a new way of thinking. The book quickly sold out across Sweden and teachers are now using it as part of their curriculum. This KickStarter, which we’re highlighting here, is our effort to bring the book to the U.S. now. By using the book as a catalyst in America we believe children (especially young girls) will be more likely to embrace and maybe take a deeper dive into actual programming, and ultimately pursuing majors and long careers in STEM. I’d love to answer any questions you have on the project and thanks for your support! - Tor