You Don’t Need to Be Good at Math to Write Good Code

You love technology, computer games, and software apps. While other kids were learning a foreign language or playing a sport, you were dreaming of Java, C++, and Python. You know that those who code rule the Internet world, and you want to be that person.

But you suck at math...bummer.

Should you let that dream go and join the ranks of other mathematically-challenged civilians working jobs that don’t require computation or quadratic equations?

Not so fast. Here’s why you can be a coder, even if math isn’t your thing.

Coding Involves Many Tools

“I suck at math but have been successful for almost 40 years,” says Richard Corn, programmer and owner of Software Devices LLC. Math, Corn contends, is only one tool in the box. For programmers, there are other tools just as critical, often more so.

“You don’t hire a contractor based on the brand of hammer he uses,” says Corn. “You choose him based on the kind of houses he builds.” Corn illuminates modern technology’s division of labor. Certain fields in programming/coding are more math-heavy than others, but that doesn’t prevent individual coders from being successful.

“It depends [on] what you want to do,” writes Emma Mulqueeny, author, programmer, and CEO of Young Wired State. “To develop websites and apps, you need only elementary math skills. The math you learn in primary school will see you through nicely. Thinking logically and conceptually is far more important.”

Consider a comparison: Say you want to go into medicine. No matter what you want to do in the field, you’ll need to study biology and chemistry. These are the basic foundations of all medicine. Now, if you want to be a disease specialist or a neurosurgeon, you will definitely need advanced, expert knowledge in those areas. But if you want to be a registered nurse, an EMT, or a pharmacy technician, you do not need the same level of expertise.

Programming is much the same.

To get a solid start in computer programming, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Problem solving capability
  • Logical thinking
  • Understanding of systems and how they work

From there, it depends where you want to go. If you’re interested in website content management and you enjoy working with Python or PHP, then your high school level math will likely suffice. On the other hand, if your goal is to work with physics engines and artificial intelligence, then you’ll need more advanced math skills.

Right from the start, though, know that there’s a difference between not liking math and not being good at math. Just as some students hate reading books their teacher assigns but love reading books they discover themselves, you may find that you barely survive second period algebra but are fully-engaged with math when it truly matters to what you want to do with your life. So, if you’re not yet a math rock star, don’t sweat it. Programming/coding may still be for you.

And if you want to start learning today, check out these really awesome resources:

Sources:

Corn, R. (2014, March 21). Interview by Tyler Miller.

Mulqueeny, E. (2012, 12 6). Learning to code: do i need to be good at maths?. The Telegraph. Retrieved from The Telegraph.

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