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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: 3, Funny) by Thexalon on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:22PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:22PM (#231791)

    Why are people so fucking afraid of "math" and why do they boast about be so goddamn awful at it. Do people boast that they only speak one language? Do people boast that they can't read? Do people boast that they can't write?

    The basic problem is that it is currently completely socially acceptable to be mathematically ignorant. As in, people are not socially penalized for not being able to figure out change in their heads for a $13.50 purchase from a $20 bill, much less have the slightest clue how to measure fuel efficiency given the change in odometer and the volume of gasoline purchased since the last fill-up. And forget any understanding of compound interest! Heck, the % symbol also thoroughly confuses a lot of people.

    And to make things worse, primary school teachers are often among those who don't really understand math! I lucked out - my absolutely wonderful second grade teacher did really understand and enjoy teaching math - but lots of teachers in the primary grades see math as a series of facts to be memorized rather than a set of concepts and processes that enable you to solve real-world problems. For example, I was carefully taught to memorize that 7x7=49, but not taught why that was so, much less that (7x6) + 7 = 7x7.

    The thing is, that mathematical ignorance is really really profitable to the financial companies that do have the mathematical understanding of what's going on. Remember how I said nobody understood compound interest? That is handy if you're trying to get people to be happy about paying 26% on a credit card.

    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @04:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @04:23PM (#231833)

    but lots of teachers in the primary grades

    The problem is much larger. Even lots of college and university teachers feel the same way.

    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday September 04 2015, @01:01PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Friday September 04 2015, @01:01PM (#232227)

      I agree that some university folks teaching humanities feel the same way, but I consider it more of a problem that kids are getting math taught wrong and badly from the moment they first enter school, because that scares them away from it before they can even start to learn it properly.

      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"