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Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 5:29 am
by danielverza
Found this atrocity in /. ... y-use-math
"I'm a high school student who is interested in a career in a computer science or game development related position. I've been told by teachers and parents that math classes are a must for any technology related career. I've been dabbling around Unity3D and OGRE for about two years now and have been programming for longer than that, but I've never had to use any math beyond trigonometry (which I took as a Freshman). This makes me wonder: will I actually use calculus and above, or is it just a popular idea that you need to be a mathematician in order to program? What are your experiences?"
I've been seeing this behavior a lot in younger folks and I believe it to be an indication of a really big problem !

I believe this is a similar trend to the one that motivated the creation of the Raspberry Pi.

My understanding is that learning math teaches you to think. Logic, abstraction and general problem-solving skills, just to name a few, are what you get when you learn math. And that will be usefull in anything you choose to do. Everyday and for the rest of your life!

Someone with better teaching skills than mine should address this...

Your thoughts ??

**Note to MODs: If you feel like this is in the wrong place please move to a more appropriate one. Thanks!

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 6:41 am
by amigarulez
Basic math knowledge is of course a must(but that's true for most professions), while knowing advanced math will certainly be very helpful I don't think it's a must for a computer engineer to excel at math. You can be very productive and often experience and domain knowledge is more important than what you learned in school:)

My self I learned to code when I was 8 on my brothers C= 128, I taught my self to code with very little direct know-how of math, because I was motivated I learned what I needed to fulfill my goals. Kind of learning through osmosis;)

My conclusion is that while math is extremely important, we shouldn't exclude/discourage because of it. The important part is to get people interested in computers hardware and software, and if we get them motivated and see a real world use for math and learn it because of that. Just like some people must learn by there own mistakes;)

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:26 pm
by Ravenous
When I was aged maybe 12-14 I started learning esoteric stuff, number bases especially. I thought it was useless rubbish, but of course now I use base 16 (hexadecimal) almost daily and less commonly bits of octal, and of course binary (flags used in depths of code to indicate certain options). So that's an example of esoteric stuff that is used in the real world.

Then there's the abstractness you mention - which I would say was sets, unions, etc. I never use that explicitly but my "autopilot" is probably using that almost every time I try to extract something from a large and messy data set.

Then there's the stuff I rarely use - like integral & differential calculus. (Though I would use this a lot if I'd gone into mechatronics I suppose.)

So to answer the high school student's question, you will end up using some mathematics every day, and never using other bits, but there's no way to tell which until you get there. Better learn a little of everything to avoid future embarrassment.

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 4:49 pm
by tufty
Slashdot's full of morons. And that's only sampling the ones at the top of the curve.

It's worrying that mathematics is somehow seen as being useless. I'm 44, and I doubt a day has gone past since I left school where I haven't used the skills I learned in maths /directly/.

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 5:36 pm
by toxibunny
Do I use math? Not really, to be honest. I used google to convert from inches to centimetres today, that's how much I don't use math...

Not that I'm saying people shouldn't learn, or that I'm not lazy or whatever... Just answering the question, that's all.

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:40 pm
by gritz
Maths? It depends what you want to do, I suppose. here in audioland it's unavoidable - DSP is maths, trig is everywhere (but not too hard!) and e.g. filters are statistics. Ugh! :lol:

An old fraud like me can get away with copy / pasting cookbook code (there's no point in me reinventing the biquad filter, for instance), but obviously proper students need to know how to derive this stuff from first principles. Although a lot of programming disciplines don't need much maths knowledge beyond the need to be able to count to 255, anyone who is scared by the boolean truth and beauty of pure sums might not be cut out for the whole methodical programming thing (not in the sense of doing it for a job, at least).

I think that this Slashdot B.S. is another symptom of the yawning gap between the concepts of science and technology:

Science: The search for truth using reasoned argument, maths, observation, experimentation and whatnot.

Technology: Media-prominent piffle like Facebook, Twitter, various apps and the throwaway hardware that it all runs on.

The link between the two is lost on most people and I guess that's why the Pi was conceived.

Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:22 pm
by PaulBuxton
Maths involved in my everyday work
1) Matrix maths involved in colour space conversion
2) DCT based transforms
3) Filtering operations

Plenty of incidental maths as well. I may not have to sit down and type the maths out every day, but I have to understand what it is happening at a fairly fundamental level.

A fairly large percentage of algorithms we use today came out of mathematics reasearch (much of it before we had computers to run it on!). Anyone who thinks maths is not needed for programming has a very limited view of programming, generally just linking together calls to other libraries that actually do the work.


Re: Slashdot: How Many of You Actually Use Math?

Posted: Fri Aug 17, 2012 3:12 pm
by MrBunsy
Same as what others have just said, I definitely use a lot of maths. I regularly need the stuff I learnt at A-level for my just for fun pet-projects. Ray tracer: filled with vector maths, fractals: all complex stuff and higher-level knowing-what-on-earth-is-going-on, even a spirograph generator took a page of scribbling and thinking things through to work out how to calculate the time required before the pattern starts to repeat.

Something like getting an AI to shoot at where a player will be, or simulating physics with a low framerate will all require calculus or numerical methods.

A lot of the time I can cheat and copy the final solutions from Wikipedia - but it massively helps if I know what it is I'm looking for in the first place, and if there's a different form of the solution that'd be better for how my software's written. Or if I simply can't find somewhere where someone has worked out the solution for what I want to do!

Don't know how much I'm going to need in the real Engineering world - don't start work for another month! But things like cryptography are pretty much all degree-level maths (from my limited academic experience).

Edit: Oh, and just remembered, although it was academic, my dissertation and masters project were ludicrously maths based, all implementing ideas described in papers where they had written just about enough to actually implement what they were on about, but not quite enough to do it without understanding it in some detail first.