September 4, 2015
Debunking The Myths: Do Programmers Need To Know Math
Do programmers need to know math? Yes, you do need to be an expert at math... if you're building an advanced calculator application or math education program! For anything else, you can become a professional programmer armed with the simple knowledge of grade-school math.
Photo by 1871.
If your addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division skills need some work, it might be a good idea to take a refresher course on those before learning to code, but software development doesn’t require any knowledge beyond these most basic forms of arithmetic. I founded Anyone Can Learn To Code without a background in math, and have forgotten most of what I learned beyond elementary school. Not once have I run into an issue where I couldn’t achieve something because of my lack of math expertise!
In fact, math is one of the first things you can learn how to achieve with programming. In many computer languages, if you write a line of code that says “1 + 2” the computer will spit out the number 3. You may have thought that you don’t know how to write a single line of a seemingly gobbledegook programming language, but you'll quickly find that you do!
Let's try it out right now. Go to (one of my favorite sites!) TryRuby.org, which lets you type in some code in the Ruby programming language and gives you immediate output. You’ll see a big space on the right of the screen where you can type in your code. Try typing 1 + 2, and then press Enter (or Return), and you should see it output the number 3. Use Try Ruby to experiment with subtraction, multiplication, and division, and you’ll see that you actually know how to code right now!
When trying this, you may run into the question of how you multiply and divide. There are + and – keys for addition and subtraction, but what are the keys for multiplication and division? In Ruby (and many other programming languages), the asterisk key (that’s the * ) signifies multiplication, and the forward slash (that’s the / ) represents division. So 5 * 3 will get you 15, and 15 / 3 will get you 5. Try it out!
-Jay Wengrow, Founder of Anyone Can Learn To Code