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posted by martyb on Thursday September 03 2015, @09:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the ignorance-is-bliss dept.

Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic that learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic.

Victoria Fine explains how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling. "Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. “How do I make a website red” was not nearly as successful a question as “CSS color values HEX red” combined with “CSS background color.” I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers."

According to Khazan while it’s true that some types of code look a little like equations, you don’t really have to solve them, just know where they go and what they do. "In most cases you can see that the hard maths (the physical and geometry) is either done by a computer or has been done by someone else. While the calculations do happen and are essential to the successful running of the program, the programmer does not need to know how they are done."

Khazan says that in order to figure out what your program should say, you’re going to need some basic logic skills and you’ll need to be skilled at copying and pasting things from online repositories and tweaking them slightly. "But humanities majors, fresh off writing reams of term papers, are probably more talented at that than math majors are."


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by tfried on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:08AM

    by tfried (5534) on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:08AM (#231648)

    Well, true, you don't really need much mathematical knowledge in order to become a decent programmer. But the "way of thinking" is pretty much the same for both things, in my opinion. How do I get from representation A to representation B, how can I make this look like that, how can I find out it this is the same kind of thing as that, etc.

    So, yes, theoretically you can be bad at math and good at programming, but it still seems a rather unlikely combination...

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  • (Score: 2) by WizardFusion on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:23AM

    by WizardFusion (498) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:23AM (#231652) Journal

    The word you are looking for is Algebra. I was OK at Maths (yes, it has a S at the end) in school/collage, but great with algebra.
    I believe this is what helps give a good foundation with coding.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by Justin Case on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:45AM

      by Justin Case (4239) on Thursday September 03 2015, @10:45AM (#231660) Journal

      How many maths did you study?

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:42AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:42AM (#231673)

        How many maths did you study?

        Alls of thems.

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @12:15PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @12:15PM (#231691)

      So you think algebra is not mathematics?

      Or are you under the delusion that maths is what you learn in the maths class at school?

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @12:59PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @12:59PM (#231706)

      I was OK at Maths (yes, it has a S at the end) in school/collage,

      No, it doesn't. Also "college" has no "a" in it.

      • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @02:05PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @02:05PM (#231743)

        Also "college" has no "a" in it.

        Unless it is a collage of maths.

    • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Thursday September 03 2015, @09:00PM

      by aristarchus (2645) on Thursday September 03 2015, @09:00PM (#231968) Journal

      I was OK at Maths (yes, it has a S at the end) in school/collage,

      Ah, but did you attend one school, or possibly many collages (with an s at the end, inexplicably!)?

      Maybe we could say you attended a collage of colleges, perhaps?

      But in any case, the Greek word μάθημα does not refer to any specific area of study, it includes all.

      --
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    • (Score: 2) by gidds on Sunday September 06 2015, @10:44AM

      by gidds (589) on Sunday September 06 2015, @10:44AM (#232944)

      Maths (yes, it has a S at the end)

      You know that, and I know that — but those poor benighted colonials in the Americas don't know any better, and for some reason won't accept the truth from us.  I find it's usually safer just to humour them.

      --
      [sig redacted]
  • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:08AM

    by The Mighty Buzzard (18) Subscriber Badge <themightybuzzard@soylentnews.org> on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:08AM (#231668) Homepage Journal

    Not as unlikely as you'd think. I'd be willing to bet at least a third of the good code monkeys out there would have a hell of a time doing anything beyond highschool math longhand anymore. If you don't use something, you eventually lose it.

    --
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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:50AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @11:50AM (#231678)

      More likely, these people never truly understood it in the first place and just memorized some formulas, since that's all schools really require of you.

  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:44PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:44PM (#231806) Journal

    So, yes, theoretically you can be bad at math and good at programming, but it still seems a rather unlikely combination...

    Not really. Maybe in your field, but not in most.

    Look, most computing is bean counting, and moving shit from an input to an output. Sure, game development, graphics, and such are special cases. But the vast majority of computing systems simply move stuff around, print or display existing stuff, accept input of new stuff, store it someplace, find it again when requested, etc.

    The math seldom extends to anything more complex than computing an average. You are far more likely to find time/date computations than the computation of a standard deviation, let alone the first derivative of something.

           

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04 2015, @09:16AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 04 2015, @09:16AM (#232178)

      And you think that date/time computations are not maths?

      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday September 04 2015, @06:50PM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday September 04 2015, @06:50PM (#232373) Journal

        And you think that date/time computations are not maths?

        NO, never said that, I merely pointed out that for many common computing tasks, date computations are
        about as complex as the math gets.

        - Was the insurance policy valid at the time of the crash.
        - If born in November 1983, what date will someone be retirement eligible?
        - What day of the week was a specific date?

        These things occur all the time in normal accounting, but virtually never in graphics or games.
        But none of them are particularly complex, and some languages have routines to handle these.

        --
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