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I Just Want to Program! Don't Make Me Learn Math!

By DanLM ·

Now, I have just read this article on the Orielly web site. And I have to say, I disagree. And for several reasons.

As my post to the article states, in the business world Math is a requirement. Everything from knowing various accounting principles(its math) to being able to understand the equations of some statistical requirement(insurance). Continuing this further, when working for a workers compensation state agency. We calculated the amount we would pay on any medical procedures based on a percentage of Medicare with this figure being worked off the last years percentage if I remember correctly.

In my experience, if you could not understand various equations. You could not fulfill the requirements of the task. This does not take into account where a person may come out of school and go into various other programming backgrounds(science, graphical).

I don't understand how math should not be a requirement. A schools job is to broadly prepare you for as many possible work environment as possible. If they do not provide a math background to your education, they severely limit your possibilities in what backgrounds you may want to choose.

Edited to add: If you read any of georges columns, you will notice he does statistics constantly on the various hardware/software that he tests. I don't know how reliant it is anymore, but I use to read application dumps when being on call at 3am. Not being able to convert hex to decimal and vice versa would have been an issue. I have also seen db admins use math to find the position of a record within a database when their was integrity problems. How can a Computer science major not have a math background>


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The number of people

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to I had forgotten about tha ...

who don't know the difference between precision and accuracy is a constant cause of dismay and lucrative contracts making things add up.

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Well, for a shooter, that's easy to remember.

by deepsand In reply to The number of people

A tight group of shots = high precision; having that group close to the intended target is high accuracy. If you don't know the difference, and how to control both, trying to sight a weapon is a waste of time.

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Those who are unable to do the math are seduced by digital displays, ...

by deepsand In reply to I had forgotten about tha ...

be they those of a calculator, a spreadsheet, or any computer printed output. For them, the mere presence of more numbers following a decimal point connotes great accuracy.

And then, when they see a column of numbers whose values should, for example, total 100%, they're baffled to see the total showing as 99.99%.

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Slightly off topic but close...

by daveo2000 In reply to Those who are unable to d ...

This reminds me of when my son (4th grader) was doing some math assignment and was trying to fill in a table for a pie chart. The numbers needed to add up to 100% and I was whining about him making sure to "show his work."

It all came home when he added everything up and it came to something around .95. I got him to review his "shown work" and he started finding mistakes and eventually got it to add up to 1.00.

I felt vindicated and he was happy to have the asignment complete.

I will be happy to say that he learned his lesson and ALWAYS shows his work now...

if he had actually learned his lesson and always did show his work..

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Imagine if everyone had to "show their work!"

by deepsand In reply to Slightly off topic but cl ...

We would, no doubt, be staring into a myriad gaping jaws.

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Mathematical concepts are important to programming

by alaniane In reply to My nearly 50 years of exp ...

That is why I think they should ban the calculator from most mathematical courses. When you are forced to figure the problem out in your head instead of just punching keys, you start to see the value and beauty of mathematics. The problem I see with most mathematic and programming courses nowdays is that they teach you how to solve a problem by using a set formula. They fail to teach you how to derive the formula in the first place. Its the abstract concepts that are going to help you the most not the various formulas.

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Which ones ?

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Mathematical concepts are ...

Several branches of maths are useful models which can be programmed, ie applied.

I don't think anyone was arguing that maths isn't useful or that it doesn't have it's own Symmetry.

There are no axioms of programming.
There is no system of proof.
There is no one economic solution.

Using math to teach that lesson would be far more valuable, than attempts to treat programming as though the above myths were true.

I barely covered proofs in advanced math, (what I did I enjoyed).

Arithmetic well that's in another thread and you have my wholehearted agreement.

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You miss the point of proofs

by alaniane In reply to Which ones ?

The point of proofs (at least when I was in school which is over 20 years ago) is to help a person learn how a solution is derived. Its actually a test of logic. Programming requires that I take a spec a break into smaller procedural blocks. Even if I am doing object-oriented programming, I still have to program procedurally aka methods/functions/subs.
When I prove a mathematical theorem, I have to show the steps I used to solve the problem and why each step is valid. Those are the principles that are important to learn. Its the logic behind the formulas and not the formulas themselves. That is the problem with many math classes today; people learn the formulas, but never see the basis for those formulas.

[Sorry I missed read your post about proofs. I concur that many of the math programs fail to teach sufficiently proofs. That is one of reasons I don't like having calculators used in a math class since teachers and students tend to focus more on using specific formulas to solve problems instead of showing how to derive those formulas.]

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I'm well aware of the point of proofs

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to You miss the point of pro ...

Rigour is the point of proofs, there is no rigour in software development.

If there was, we would be out of a job, or be up for a massive salary increase.

Mathematics as system of logic is based (15 ?) axioms.

There is only one axiom in software development

If you are right now, you'll be wrong soon.

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Based on Experience I Agree With Wayne

by bluechimera In reply to Programming Does Not Requ ...

Having programmed for over 25 years, I have found that basic algebra is all that is really required in most situations. I am a former Physics major and have Lots of math classes under my belt. Calculus up to differential equations and linear algebra.

I only had to use calculus once. CMM4 had no sine or cosine functions, so I used a MacLarien series to make my own.

There are areas of programming where math is heavily used: graphics and DSP come to mind.

I worked in DSP for 4 years as a contractor for the Navy. In every case a DSP engineer would come up with the algorithm. My job was to render it into code.

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