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ELI5: The role of Discrete Mathematics in programmatic problem solving

lavie_encode profile image Nicole Archambault ・1 min read

I've run across this question like 3 times in the past month and I'm curious as well. It gets discussed a lot but my NVLD ass don't get it. 😂❤️

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Ben Lovy • Edited

Discrete mathematics gives you the language you need to formally talk about and compare algorithms. An example is Big O notation for describing computational complexity.
This is a discrete math concept and notation that formalizes this very useful concept.

When you write a program, you're writing a specific implementation of an algorithm in a specific syntax, specific to a platform. It's a very concrete thing. An algorithm, though, is a more abstract, general concept. You can implement the same algorithm in many different programming languages. Discrete math is the branch of mathematics that describes this space, so studying it will directly, immediately go in your problem-solving toolset for coding.

The only reason I know this is because I took a discrete math class. I had no clue what it meant either when the class started but clicked by the end of week one. Math has always been a weak subject for me but my programming experience made up for it here - first A in any math class since probably 6th grade.

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Nicole Archambault Author

That's very helpful, thank you! Maybe like age 10 level but I think the entire concept is difficult to explain to a 5yo

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Ben Lovy

Every time I interact with an actual five year old, I feel like I learn more than they do.

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Derek Arnold

Discrete math is the part of math that can be broken into discrete parts like all of the logic statements that make a computer.