21st Century ‘C’ Skills Gained Another ‘C’

We’ve all heard the “four C’s of 21st century” skills that students need to learn to excel in the future – critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. Since schools are evolving criteria to incorporate these skills, there has been an increase in project-based learning, inquiry learning, and an emphasis on higher order thinking over rote learning. However, is there one ‘C’ missing?

Shchi Grover, a researcher of STEM, computer science, and computational thinking, says there should be five C’s of 21st century skills. The additional skill he is referring to is computational thinking. Computational thinking is the thought process to help understand a problem and express the solutions. This will help students in computer science formulate, analyze, and solve problems.

Four 21st Century Skills

Computational thinking can be embedded into classroom subjects through puzzles and word problems that requite learners to engage in analytical and logical thinking. These skills can be undertaken in language arts, mathematics, and computer science. Here are some examples Grover gives:

Language Arts

  • Use logic to put together a jumbled story in correct sequence (younger grades)
  • Identify patterns for different sentence types and rules for grammar
  • Use first-order logic to arrive at conclusion based on given facts
  • Construct social networks to analyze stories
  • Program a story with alternate pathways (“Choose your own adventure”)


  • Model functions in algebra through programs (compare them to functions in programs)
  • Write an algorithm (or precise sequence of steps) on how to do matrix multiplication or how to solve a quadratic equation
  • Use decomposition to solve word problems
  • Express generalizations (as algebraic representations) by identifying patterns


  • Do a species classification with explicit “If-Then” logic (younger grades)
  • Build a computational model of a physical phenomenon
  • Instead of playing with or manipulating pre-developed software simulations of scientific phenomenon, create (program) computational models and simulations to study and interrogate phenomena

Social Science

  • Study data and Identify patterns / trends in wars and other historical events
  • Create visualizations of these patterns and trends
  • Create a simulation to study relationships in social science phenomena such as women’s education and health
  • Create models for social systems, or social networks, or social choice

Source: EdSurge