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Jelle Smeets
Jelle Smeets

Posted on • Originally published at blog.jellesmeets.nl

How important is math in programming?

A frequently asked question is How important is math in programming? In this blog post, we will dive into math in programming. How important is math in programming? What math do you need in your day-to-day work as a programmer? At the end of this post, you should have a clear picture of how important math is in programming.

I'm Jelle, I was a backend developer for several years. The last class I took in math was in high school at age 16. The last topic we touched on was the Pythagorean theorem at the Dutch VMBO level (general education development for Americans). Did my lack of math skills give me any issues in my developer career?

How important is math in programming?

One of the first remarks I got when I told non-programmer people that I was a developer is "you must be good at math". It is a common misconception that if you want to be a programmer you need a solid mathematical background.

This is not the case! In over 5 years as a developer, I hardly used anything more complex than additions, subtraction & percentages in my day-to-day work. In those other cases, googling your subject or watching a Youtube video was helpful enough.

The skills to be good at math and programming do overlap. To be good at math you need to be good at logical thinking, and able to think algorithmically. Dividing your problems into smaller steps to solve X.

How important is math in programming? In most cases, you will do fine with the basics. Additions, subtractions & percentages should solve 90% of your day-to-day work.

Do you want to become a better programmer? Check what most overlooked skill you need to learn to become a better programmer.

How important is math in programming?
How important is math in programming?

In what cases does math help?

In programming, you will learn a lot of things regarding the domain you are working on. I've worked several years in the printing domain. I had no related knowledge, but building on features for several years taught me several printing-related topics.

You can say the same for math. If you are working on domains or features that do not require maths, you probably don't need math skills. In my years as a backend developer, I learned more about business logic, like shipping regulations, printing terminology, and APIs than maths.

However, if you spend your time on a math-heavy domain like taxes or statistics you might do better with maths. Calculating and checking if you have applied the correct taxes on your e-commerce webshop goes a lot easier if you have a solid understanding of percentages.

Conclusion

How important is math in programming? Like all good questions, the answer is not really black & white. Having experience with math does not hurt. But it is not as important as most people might think. It depends, if you are going to work on a topic that does not require math skills it could be you never need it. Are you going to work on a math-heavy topic like taxes or statistics? In that case, you have benefits from knowing your math.

To summarize:

  • In most cases, you just need the basics of math.
  • The skillset you need to be good at math and programming overlap. The ability to think logically and solve problems.
  • Some domains you will be working on need more math skills than others.

I hope you enjoyed this post. And you were able to answer the question: How important is math in programming? To keep up to date on new posts, and level up your skillset as a developer subscribe to the newsletter or follow me on Twitter.

Top comments (8)

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lukeshiru profile image
Luke Shiru

πŸ’― agree! There are some folks that say:

Math makes you a better programmer.

But the thing is: Any knowledge outside programming will make you a better programmer, not just Math. If you have general knowledge you'll come up with more creative solutions for the problems you face as a programmer. Math can be part of that knowledge, but is not at all a requirement to be a good developer, is more like a "nice to have".

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smeetsmeister profile image
Jelle Smeets Author

Completely agree Luke!

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miguelmj profile image
MiguelMJ • Edited on

Well said.
Programming is a hammer, math is a screwdriver. It's not that one is required for the other, is that you will need to use each depending on your needs!
My personal favorites as topics that require a strong usage of both are physics simulations and low level image processing. They taught me that matrices are far, far from useless πŸ˜‚

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smeetsmeister profile image
Jelle Smeets Author

I love the hammer/screwdriver analogy Miguel!

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yongchanghe profile image
Yongchang He

Thank you for sharing!

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smeetsmeister profile image
Jelle Smeets Author

Glad you liked it!

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nathan20 profile image
Nathan

I love it !

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mrdulin profile image
official_dulin

Math is the foundation of data structure, modeling, algorithm. These are the foundation of software engineering.

Dependency relationship:

Software -> data structure, modeling, algorithm -> math

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