What are algorithms? What are some examples of algorithms used in real life?

Have you ever used Google Maps to find the shortest route from one place to another? Have you ever used the search feature on a website? Of course, you might have! Each scenario has one thing in common: one or more algorithms are being used to produce results. 


Algorithms existed long before computers were invented. The use of computers and algorithms has become ubiquitous today. There is an algorithm in everything we do. Many aspects of our daily lives rely upon them as a means of problem-solving and computational thinking. 


Let’s first define an algorithm.


What is an algorithm?

Algorithms are sets of rules or instructions that guide you through solving complex problems. In general, an algorithm can be considered a plan or blueprint to solve a problem. It can be defined as a series of discrete steps with step-by-step instructions.


Algorithmic thinking can be challenging for students who are new to coding. Teaching algorithms can be made more approachable by using examples from daily life. Let’s look at the most common examples of algorithms in real life.


Examples of algorithms in everyday life

Algorithms are used in every aspect of our lives, including linear processes that follow predetermined steps, conditional algorithms that determine between two actions, and loop algorithms that repeat a sequence. For instance, we teach our kids to do daily tasks from an early age. Through a step-by-step process, we demonstrate how to tie their shoes or walk up the stairs. 


Let’s see in detail the main examples of algorithms in everyday life.


Tying your shoes


Algorithms are steps that follow the same pattern every time they are performed. Tieing your shoes is a great example of algorithms used in everyday life. For example, a traditional shoelace knot can be made with a limited number of steps.


Cooking recipes

Recipes are a great example of how algorithms are used in everyday life. You have to follow a series of steps in order to complete a recipe. The ingredients must be combined in a specific way to yield a predictable result. Thus, recipes illustrate an approach to achieving a specific goal that is replicablesimilar to how an algorithm in computer science works.


Finding a library book


Another example of using an algorithm in everyday life is finding a library book. A library book can be found in a variety of ways, including using the library’s computer catalogue system, identifying genre labels on shelves, and searching by subject or author. No matter what process is used, if it can be defined and replicated, then it can be considered an algorithm.


Traffic Lights


Traffic signal software organises standard movements into phases according to traffic flow in real time. Keeping traffic lights safe requires an algorithm that detects phases and times movements appropriately. Traffic is directed in an appropriate, step-by-step manner using the algorithm. 


Google Search


The simple act of searching on Google relies on algorithms, even though it seems so simple. An algorithm is used by Google to produce the responses to our queries. Have you noticed that even the complete query is not necessary to give us the results? 

For example, if you want to search “ can a dog swim”, you will get the same results even if you type “swimming dog”. This is possible because of the algorithm used by Google.


Facial recognition


It is human nature to remember the facial features of someone whose face we’ve previously recognised. Computer algorithms can automate this process. Facial recognition enables a human face to be matched with a database of faces using a digital image or a video frame.



Algorithms are everywhere and so close, but we often don’t notice them. Algorithmic thinking begins with understanding algorithms. Real-world examples can help young students learn algorithmic thinking and design skills.

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