Ireland has embraced the Bebras Challenge as part of the initiatives of the Irish Computer Society to encourage young people to engage in and enjoy computational thinking. It is an easy way to engage the natural delight that young people have in problem solving, logic, puzzles etc. Without even knowing it, they become practiced and competent at examining data given, evaluating options, doing calculations, logically thinking through the puzzles presented to come up with a correct solution.
The Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge is organized in over 60 countries and designed to get students all over the world excited about computing.
Last November over 100,000 students in Ireland and 365,000 students took part in the UK, and over 3 million worldwide.
What teachers say about the challenge:
“I just want to say how much the children are enjoying this competition. It is the first year we have entered, and I have students aged 8 to 11 participating in my Computing lessons, with some of our older students also taking on the challenges. It is really helping to challenge their thinking, and they are showing great determination to try and complete each task! Also fantastic to find something that works on our iPads, as most puzzles of this kind are flash based.”
“Our students completed the challenge this morning, I just wanted to say thank you for running this. It’s a brilliant idea!”
“This challenge has changed our approach to introducing computing to our students. I have realised that the first step is to get the students, some as young as 6years, to start to think in a structured and logical way. Then they can approach early coding tasks in a confident way, feeling successful from the start, and proud of their efforts. Gone are the days of frustration at starting to learn a new discipline in the computing class!”
Bebras is an international initiative aiming to promote Informatics (Computer Science, or Computing) and computational thinking among school students at all ages. Participants are usually supervised by teachers who may integrate the Bebras challenge in their teaching activities. The challenge is performed in schools using computers or mobile devices.
The first Bebras challenge
The history of Bebras challenge began on September 25, 2004, in Lithuania, when experimental trial, in which 779 school students participated, was held. Its aim was to check selected technologies of the challenge and to evaluate the level of complexity of the presented problems. After a month, on October 21, the first Lithuanian Bebras challenge took place. As many as 3470 pupils from 146 schools participated.
What does Computational Thinking involve?
Computational thinking involves using a set of problem-solving skills and techniques that software engineers use to write programs and apps. The Bebras challenge promotes problem solving skills and Informatics concepts including the ability to break down complex tasks into simpler components, algorithm design, pattern recognition, pattern generalisation and abstraction.
The Bebras challenges are made of a set of short problems called Bebras tasks and are delivered online. The tasks are fun, engaging and based on problems that computer scientists often meet and enjoy solving. The tasks can be solved without prior knowledge but instead require logical thinking. The aim is to solve as many as you can in the allotted time.
Irish teachers have embraced this and have highlighted this as a best practice at both primary and second level schools.