Outreach & Materials

Green Chile Cheeseburger Coding Game

Interested in learning the fundamental thinking processes behind writing code? The mere act of writing code will not make you a better programmer, but developing the critical thinking skills that power every great programmer will! And the best news, you won’t even need a computer for this activity (well, except maybe to print it). We used a coding game developed by igamemom.com and reworked it with a New Mexico twist.

Crucial Problem Solving Skills for Coding

The ability to think from a different reference system.
Using the Green Chile Cheeseburger coding game, a link to download a copy can be found at the bottom of this page, budding programmers can look at the board from any angle. This means that the left, right, up, and down arrow commands would produce a different result depending on which side of the board they are looking at while developing the program. Ask your budding programmer, “Which side is UP, which side is DOWN?” You may even want to challenge them by asking if their code will still work if you are looking at the board from a different perspective.

The ability to anticipate all different scenarios.
Again, using the Green Chile Cheeseburger Coding game, budding programmers will find many ways to move their burgers to the board square containing the cheese.  There is not a single correct solution, but rather numerous ones. One way to aid your budding programmer is to always push them to develop a new code to solve the puzzle. For instance, can they solve the puzzle using fewer code blocks?

The ability to break a big task into actionable smaller steps.
The ability to take large tasks and break them into smaller actionable steps is not a skill only used in coding … it’s used in almost every job! When looking at the Green Chile Cheeseburger Coding game, some budding young programmers will be able to easily solve the problem in a single step, while others might find it a little overwhelming. Aiding them in breaking the complete path into smaller paths – make it past the first set of tables and chairs, then past the second set, collect the green chile, and reach the cheese. By doing this, they will be used to thinking in steps, instead of trying to achieve a big task in one stretch.

The ability to troubleshoot when things don’t go as planned.
Many times when a child is told that their answer is incorrect, they simply erase the whole thing immediately and start anew. However, there was most likely a part of their answer that was on the correct path, even if the end result was not what they wanted or expected. If they would have looked over their work, they could have found the small error that led them down the unexpected path and corrected it. This piece, of course, goes hand in hand with the previous one – being able to break a large task into smaller steps. By understanding that their problem is built from smaller steps, they can go through it step-by-step and find the error and correct their answer. Most likely, by simply altering the perspective at which you look at the game board, the code your budding programmer has so proudly constructed will no longer work. Challenge them to take a look at the code and determine which changes are needed to make the code work from the new perspective.

The ability to think backward starting from the end result.
When facing a large task, there are two ways of breaking it down into smaller actionable steps: starting from what you have or starting with what you would like to achieve. The second option is often forgotten, but starting by envisioning the end goal often makes determining the path much simpler. To do this with the Green Chile Cheeseburger coding game, try starting with the cheese and moving toward the cheeseburger, and of course, don’t forget to snag the green chile on the way!

You can download your very own copy of the Green Chile Cheeseburger coding game here.