Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Computer Science and Coding Big Fat Notebook

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

My husband is an extremely tech-savvy guy, so it's no surprise that an interest in technology and its workings has passed on to our kids. When we get a review that focuses on computer learning, I usually think of my oldest child as he has a growing interest in various outlets such as coding, graphics software, 3D design, and the like. The only problem for him is that many books are geared toward beginners, like this book from Workman Publishing.

Thankfully though, I have another son who is following in his steps toward being a tech guru. I knew that Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook would be a perfect option for him.

Workman Publishing was started in 1968 and has since grown to be the largest independently owned trade book publisher in the United States. They represent many well-known brands, including the best-selling Brain Quest line. The editors of those materials have created a new series called the Big Fat Notebooks. Each book acts an innovative study guide for a school subject: math, science, world history, American history, English language arts, and computer science and coding. They are designed to feel like the reader borrowed notes from the smartest student in class as there are highlighted portions, doodles, notes "taped" into the pages, and more all in a thick composition notebook format.   

Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is the newest Big Fat Notebook and teaches key concepts while covering the basics of computer science and the fundamentals of multiple coding languages.

  • Computer Systems
  • Data and Analysis
  • Software Engineering
  • Algorithms and Programming
  • Universal Programming Principles
  • Programming with Scratch
  • Programming in Python
  • Web Development

The Big Fat Notebooks are geared toward helping middle schoolers ace their classes by making the information easy-to-understand and visually appealing. Even though my son is in only second grade, I felt confident that he could use the book since he has had a bit of experience using Scratch after watching his big brother. I knew he would be excited to have his own book and be able to create fun projects for school.

I had him read the first chapter, "What Is Computer Science?," which talks about what a computer is, what it does, how they are used in our lives, and what kind of jobs and tasks rely on them. It also touches on data, analysis, networks, the internet, and the impact of computing.

After that, I allowed him to jump straight to the Scratch unit.  The book immediately drew him in with its realistic notebooking style. The first chapter explains that Scratch is a simple programming language to use (that's why our kids learn it young) and how it uses blocks to create scripts. It explains different aspects of the program and what each component is.

The second chapter of the unit (chapter 20 of the whole book), is when he really started to learn more about using the language. He learned about parameters, the glide block, and the pen block which he used to recreate a turtle from the book. The chapter also covers some of his favorite features like the sound blocks and look blocks.

The remaining chapters cover storing information in variables, performing calculations on values with operator, evaluating information with boolean blocks, understanding the difference between control blocks and event blocks, repeating with loops, using conditional blocks, cloning, making your own block functions, and more.

Some of the information he was already familiar with using, but other features were new. It has been so fun watching him work through this unit. Many times I've heard, "Mom! Come see what I made!" For the most part, he has been able to work through the steps on his own, but when he has had difficulty understanding, his big brother has been right there to help him. That is one of my favorite things about my kids learning at home.

Since my little guy is still years away from middle school, he's been slowly working through the book. But he has been working through it! That shows me that the material is laid out in a way that's easy for kids to understand. Not only that, but he likes it. The book is colorful and eye-catching and doesn't feel at all like a textbook.

Other things he will learn from the book include collecting and using information, designing computer systems, computational thinking, understanding Python, creating a basic web page with HTML, styling elements with CSS, and much more. There are 39 chapters and over 560 pages packed with computer science learning. There is a brief Check Your Knowledge section at the end of each chapter to review key concepts with the answers on the following page that my boy and I always work through together. There are also color-coded tabs at the bottom of the pages that make each unit easy to access and an index at the back to find specific terms.

Our book came in pretty rough shape. It was mailed in a regular shipping envelope and sustained damage. The cover is creased in multiple places and the corners are torn. My daughter even asked, "We got this used, right?"

While I love that the inside looks like study notes, I don't want the outside to look like it's been tossed in a locker all school year and repeatedly abused. 

Here's what my guy thought of his Big Fat Notebook:

"I like it! All of it!"

He asks to do his coding work first thing every day. For a boy who conveniently "forgets" to do his schoolwork and gets distracted often, that's saying a lot.

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook is a fantastic resource for kids who are interested in technology. It is engaging, written in simple terms, and entertaining. We like it so much that I can't wait to check out some of the other Big Fat Notebooks for the other subjects.

Using these study guides, you can be the smartest kid in class!

You can connect with Workman Publishing on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this book on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

Everything You Need to Ace Computer Science and Coding in One Big Fat Notebook {Workman Publishing Reviews}
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