Lesson Plan

What is an Algorithm?

Digital illustration of computer downloading


Related Content

Civics Lesson

GRADE LEVEL: High School

What is an Algorithm?

How are Algorithms Being Used in Our Daily Lives?

How Could Biased Algorithms Impact Political Institutions?


Algorithms are quickly replacing human judgment in many aspects of our lives. Algorithms started out as a way of making predictions, decisions and recommendations about products and entertainment by online service providers such as Amazon, Spotify, Google, Netflix and Facebook.

Today, algorithms are being used to predict and determine such life altering assessments as your criminal status, your credit score, your health and even your future success as an employee or student.

Consider the following: Is the algorithm always reliable when it predicts human behavior? Is it ethical to use an algorithm to make a critical decision about another person’s life, especially when you can’t see or understand the factors being considered?

About the Lesson Plan

In this introductory lesson, students will learn what algorithms are, how they work and how they impact our daily lives.


  • D2.Civ.10.9-12
  • D4.5.9-12


  • Explain what an algorithm is and how algorithms impact our lives.
  • Explore the costs and benefits of using algorithms.