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Ben Halpern for CodeNewbie

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Do I Really Have to Math? Can You Navigate the Tech World without Numbers?

Here's a question that often comes up among beginners in the tech industry: do you need to have strong mathematical skills to thrive, or is it possible to excel without them? Some argue that a solid foundation in math is crucial for solving complex programming problems. On the other hand, there are developers who have succeeded without extensive math knowledge.

What are your thoughts and experiences with this? Have you found math to be a vital component in your programming journey, or have you been able to navigate the industry without it?

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Top comments (8)

sergix profile image
Peyton McGinnis

I think math, while not specifically necessary, is very helpful for abstract reasoning and logic skills and I've seen it be too often undervalued in a CpS curriculum. And some fields can hardly be done without it -- if you're in data science, for example, statistics is obviously necessary, but even if you're working in any functional programming environment, discrete/abstract math helps you
build much better programs than if you didn't have that understanding.

hfloyd profile image
Heather Floyd

As someone who was not math-oriented in primary/secondary school, and did not major in Computer science,but has had a successful programming career for 20+ years... I'd say that certainly understanding basic math is helpful, but that unless you are working in a very calculation-heavy space (as @sergix mentioned - statistics/data sciences), it should not be a barrier to becoming a programmer. I think logical thinking, the ability to articulate problems clearly, and break them down is more a requirement for programming success than calculus, for example.

soulfiremage profile image
Richard Griffiths

I started at 33 in coding. I had gcse maths only. It made no difference.

In fact I only have to grasp some higher maths concepts now purely because I'm studying tensorflow, for certification and even there I just have to have a decent sense of the concepts.

For ordinary database driven applications I just need to know how to check the answers to calculations if pricing or figures are involved.

I'd say to a beginner, get coding first, make stuff, really get into it all - don't sweat algorithm implementatiin or maths until you actually discover a real world reason to do so.

As a developer, you'll be doing arbitrary side quests anyway for various jobs. Eg making something to process a forklift truck business? You'll be picking up stuff about how that business runs, parts of a forklift, what BITA is, and so on.

Doing care planning software? You'll learn about care plan terminology, procedures and the CQC etc

Trying to make a configurater - then things get more involved and you may end up doing some maths as you learn about constraint programming - if there isn't an open source solution that covers what you need.

There's a programming term, YAGNI, used to describe programming too much too early. It means you ain't gonna need it. I would argue that this applies to maths early on. There's a high chance you ain't gonna a need it or if you do it's because years later you've taken a route where you'll be doing something quite specialist and interesting.

In my case I want to specialise in quantum machine learning stuff and discrete optimisation, maybe. So after a decade I'm somewhat starting again. But I don't actually have to at all.

rachelfazio profile image
Rachel Fazio

I find that even from a graphic design standpoint I am constantly using math, though for me it is mostly for geometry + data science. I find that the more consistently I practice math, the easier time I have at problem-solving quickly! Though for my field, it is not absolutely necessary to be an expert and it is definitely forgiving in a certain light.

fenroe profile image

It's the same underlying skill but the specifics of maths aren't often useful in software development. I think a lot of people who worry about that are thinking of how well they did at school, but the grade doesn't matter and there are plenty of reasons why someone wouldn't be drawn to maths that have nothing to do with their ability to understand it.

shanif profile image
Shani Fedida

For me it seems useless. I did learned it in the computer science degree, but I already had 3 years experience in programming.
I really dont remember any usages of math in my 15 years as software developer.
If I could go back in time I would choose better topics to focus on for example Distrbuted systems, clean code, things that are relevant to the tech industry.

andychiare profile image
Andrea Chiarelli • Edited

I think this statement about the relationship between Math and programming has always been misinterpreted.
I think that what is important about Math for programming is not so much dealing with numbers, formulas, functions, but the side effects of the subject: logic, discipline, rationality, creativity.

Note 1: Reducing Math to working with numbers is quite limiting.

Note 2: I know it is paradoxical to talk about the side effect of Math when the quintessential mathematical programming paradigm, functional programming, aims to minimize side effects 😂

ezramaverick profile image

Yes, because we can do a lot of mathematics without encountering the numbers, like topology, intrinsic geometry, or, applicative algebra or combinatory algebra. Basically, you will NEVER be able to escape math and you might as well accept it and have fun learning it while your career does not depend.