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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: 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.


    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
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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.

      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.