Boolean Logic is a foundational concept in computing and is definitely important to learn about today. But as well as learning about the ideas we think it's important to learn about where they came from.
For such a significant topic, Boolean logic is very accessible to children.
I've put together some resources about George Boole and Boolean logic that are suitable for use with older children and teenagers. I'll be talking to my kids about George Boole after school today and sharing these resources with them.
What is Boolean Algebra?Boolean logic uses AND, OR, NOT and related operators to evaluation whether statements are TRUE or FALSE. It's simple, but really powerful. It's used in electronics, databases and in computer programming languages. It's really not an exaggeration to same that Boolean logic is one of the foundational concepts of the tech age.
Google supports Boolean logic for searches and in many countries they have a Google Doodle in honour of George Boole.
Who was George Boole?
Boole was a contemporary of Ada Lovelace and lived and worked during a time that saw the birth of the tech age. He was born in Lincoln, England but later moved to Cork, Ireland. Boole was interested in education and had five daughters. One of his daughters Alice Boole Stott became a mathematician. Another, Lucy Everest Boole was the first female fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Impressive!
Why Learn About George Boole?
Boolean Algebra is central to modern electronics, computing and data processing. I think it's really important to understand where ideas came from as well as the ideas themselves.
George Boole is of particular interest to me because he sort of got me on the path to computer science. Let me explain. I grew up doing logic puzzles, like those in The Lady or the Tiger by Raymond Smullyan. I'd also done some coding before I went to university on my Sinclair Spectrum and Amiga and I had also studied electronics. I hadn't properly encountered Computer Science though (well not knowingly.) I went off to university to study mathematics.
At the end of our first year we were given an option to study Computer Logic as an additional course. I expressed an interest and my tutor tried to talk me out of it because it wasn't for mathematicians. Happily I ignored the advice and got my first taste of real computer science. We studied Boolean algebra formally and other logic topics and I was hooked. I realised that lots of the puzzles I had enjoyed were based on Boolean algebra as well as the coding and electronics. I went on to study lots more computer science.
These resources will help to introduce older children and teenagers to Boole's life and to Boolean logic:
- Boole2School is an initiative to get school to teach Boolean logic on Boole's 200th birthday. Definitely worth a look even if you've missed the date. There are resources for students aged 8-18 and tap into topics that kids are interested in such as Minecraft.
- The George Boole Timeline is an interactive resource which provides a very approachable way to learn about his life.
- University College Cork (where Boole was based for much of his academic career) has produced a short video that explains Boole's legacy:
- BBC Bitesize Boolean Algebra - An overview of Boolean Algebra with colourful cartoons and clear explanations.
- littleBits Logic Expansion Pack - If you've got a littleBits set then the Logic expansion pack is a great way to learn Boolean logic in a hands-on way.
- As a child I loved logic puzzles like these grid-based ones and they use Boolean logic.
- The Logic Lab is a web app that allows you to play around with logic gates and learn how they work.
Thanks for making the tech age possible George.