Do I need to be good at math to code? 6 Reasons why you don’t!

06.06.2018

A lot of programmers have a background in mathematics or computing, which traditionally includes a lot of math.

This can lead to the conclusion that advanced math skills are a prerequisite for coding, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Math and programming might overlap to a certain extent, but they are definitely not the same thing. Being really good at one isn’t required for the other, although it can help. Here are 6 reasons why you don’t need to be good at math to code:


1. Coding can actually help you understand math, not the other way around

If someone asks you to help them learn to code, giving them a math book is not going to serve them well. If you are interested in learning to code, just go ahead and do it. There’s a plethora of resources available to people looking to get into the field. There are games that teach you to code, YouTube videos, free online courses and so much more. As you go along, you might find yourself understanding some of the underlying math. And that’s the point – if you want to be a coder you can pick the bits and pieces of math you need as you go instead of wasting your time with all of it at the beginning.


2. Math does not equal logic

Math is logical, but it isn’t logic. Recognizing patterns, understanding problems and breaking them down into parts and so on are all things that can be applied to both math and programming. But those two aren’t the only fields that require those skills. If you are someone who easily picks up foreign languages, you are probably also very good at recognizing structures and applying them. That’s what languages are made of – specific patterns. Yes, you can gain this skill by studying math, but it’s not the only way to obtain it.


3. Math does not equal abstract thinking

Math and coding both require abstract thinking. But, again, does that mean that math or coding actually are the only ways to read abstract thinking? You have been thinking abstractly your whole life. Counting on your fingers is abstracting; so is using analogies. Philosophy can also be a good venue to learn abstract thinking. As in the logic argument, abstract thinking is a skill that definitely is at the intersection of mathematics and coding. However, math and computer science are not the only fields that intersect these two skills.


4. Yes, there is complex math being done, but the computers are doing it

When you are coding a program or an app, there is underlying math happening, in the way of ones and zeroes. But that’s why we made computers in the first place – to take care of those complex calculations. Today, most of the hard math in programming is done by computers. Yes, it might be fun and interesting to understand how those calculations happen, but it’s not necessary to be a programmer. So while people use programming to do math, the task of programming is not necessarily math itself.

Now, you might say something like “but if I don’t know the foundations, how am I supposed to become really good?” It’s the same way that nobody actually knows how to make a pencil; in a very complex and specialized world, no programmer needs to know how the entirety of the mathematics of programming works.


5. Even for the instances that require some algebra, there’s always GitHub

Today, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Nobody expects you to reinvent the wheel. Moreover, having everyone begin from the beginning would be just wasteful and impractical. If you’re not well-versed in the complex mathematics that some coding requires, there are always libraries of code like GitHub. A majority of programming problems have been discussed, solved and are publically available in such repositories – you just have to know where to look for them.


6. The idea that you need math to code is a thing of the past

When programming was getting started, it was absolutely true that you needed math to understand it. Because that’s what it was at that point; little more than series of zeroes and ones. And while, way beneath the surface, those series are still at work, it has been made a lot more user-friendly today. This is how people work – by making complex things less complex.

Similarly to how not all modern humans need to know how electricity gets into their house to turn on the lights, you don’t need to know the entire math behind programming to be able to do it. It’s all part of the beauty of progress.

 

Do you think you need math to be a good programmer? Tell us why in the comments below this article!

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