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Re: Programming and math

by husker (Chaplain)
on Aug 15, 2003 at 15:25 UTC ( #284180=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Programming and math

I began pursuing a BS in Mathematics while I was working at a college as a programmer (had a BS in Comp. Sci. already). I found developing my math skills helped my programming, and my programming skills helped my math.

Math proficiency helps you develop the mental discipline and rigor that really helps solve a problem ... whether a problem on paper, or a problem in magnetic storage. Most computer applications involve transforming some set of input (input from the user, a database record, a real-world event) into some related set of output .. a report, a transaction, a web page. Math is all about transformations too. It's also about "following the rules". You can't take shortcuts in math, or be sloppy, and get correct results. The same is true for programming. Leave out a detail, make a wrong assumption ... in math, you get the wrong answer. In programming, you get the wrong output.

As others have pointed out, thinking up a solution to a problem (analysis) and implementing it (programming) are two separate things. I think math skills definitely help you with the analysis. It helps with the programming skill too, since math aptitude gets you comfortable working with formal grammars and symbols ... something you'll need to be able to do when you work with any programming language.

As far as not having a BS degree, it may limit you in career advancement from an HR perspective, but it should not limit you in how good an analyst or programmer you might be. Getting a BS just means you learned some stuff in the classroom. If you can learn the same things in your living room or your office, that knowledge is still as useful. You may learn things in different order, or it may take you longer (since you'll sometimes have to go search out knowledge, instead of being told to read chapters 4 and 5 and do the programming exercises when you're done). But in the end, a non-degreed programmer is just as capable of producing working code as a degreed one.

As for which languages are "easy" ... well, for novices, complicated syntax will become a discouraging obstacle. The two easiest languages I learned were BASIC and COBOL. Neither language is very "powerful" in their base implementations. COBOL was made for the business world so that non-CS people (like accountants and managers) could read the code and help the programmer decide if the code was solving the problem correctly. For this reason, novices often find it easier to read and write. BASIC is similar. It doesn't have a bunch of complicated operators or constructs. (I'm talking the original BASIC here, not Visual BASIC or whatever).

Both these languages are easy on the novice but still allow you to write functional programs. If you're just starting out, that's your main goal .. just to figure out if you have the smarts to solve a problem (analysis) and then implement the solution (write a program).


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