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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, Insightful) by Dunbal on Thursday September 03 2015, @01:08PM

    by Dunbal (3515) on Thursday September 03 2015, @01:08PM (#231709)

    You don't need math. You need to understand basic algebra. You need to understand how computers actually work and how your language actually works so that you know what you're doing. And you need to have the kind of mind that breaks things down into little steps. Unless you're writing a very specific application, in almost every case a "best approximation" is better than the actual mathematical formula - which you can always find in a textbook or online anyway.

    The use of variables and algebra is not "math" just like putting a band aid on someone does not make you a doctor. Unless you wish to be shot by some insane advanced mathematician you should avoid statements like that!

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:24PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @03:24PM (#231792)

    Algebra is not mathematics?

    Do Americans call it "math" because they only know just one?
    (It's always mathematics or maths in the UK.)

    Just about everything is mathematics, but the substance of the article is correct, none of it is advance mathematics. I'm sure most of use have seen plenty of examples of programmers with surprisingly poor literacy or numercy but somehow still being programmers.

    The "rediculous" [sic] spelling mistakes I see all the time I'm amazed some people are ever able to compile or debug their software.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @05:12PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 03 2015, @05:12PM (#231862)

      Algebra is not mathematics?

      Yes, the OP was saying it isnt a difficult one.

      Do Americans call it "math" because they only know just one?
      (It's always mathematics or maths in the UK.)

      Wow, really? Americans don't pluralize it because we see it as one overarching subject. Do you call your literature classes Literatures, haha does that mean you only know one, haha. What about your History class, do you call it Histories?

      The "rediculous" [sic] spelling mistakes I see all the time I'm amazed some people are ever able to compile or debug their software.

      Ahh you're so smart huh, sorry to have questioned you and your grammars and codes skillz.

  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday September 03 2015, @04:05PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday September 03 2015, @04:05PM (#231819) Journal

    You need to understand how computers actually work and how your language actually works so that you know what you're doing.

    Not really.
    You need to know the basics of computers, and the basic idea how your language works.
    Most programmers have no real clue about how a computer actually works (is there any one person on the face of the earth that understands all about how a computer actually works?) and most programmers don't actually know just what goes into a simple addition of two numbers!

    --
    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DeathMonkey on Thursday September 03 2015, @05:46PM

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday September 03 2015, @05:46PM (#231869) Journal

    Just because it doesn't contain a big scary formula doesn't make it not math.
     
    In fact, if you can parse that (unwieldy) sentence you just did math! [wikipedia.org]