Is Math Important for Programers?

By Xah Lee. Date:

if you are a programer who wallow in online hacker mecca, you must be familiar with the conflicting views. Some celebrity coders, will say math is completely useless in programing (for example: Ryan Dahl Node.js Creator) , while others will say it's essential if you want to be great programer. (for example: Steve Yegge, Math Every Day)

first of all, note that math is the main dish in scientific programing. No math, no game. For example: cryptography, algorithms, game engine, computer graphics, signal processing, data scientist, natural language processing, face recognition, speech recognition, robotics, scheduling, … and anythig in general involving artificial intelligence (such as search engine). The relevant math are are: probability, statistics, graph theory, game theory, linear programing, basically topics in discrete math. For computer graphics, you'll need mastery of linear algebra. For cryptography, you need phd in math.

if you are just a web monkey or junior programer for life, then you don't need math. In my decade long career as backend web app developer and unix sys admin, i never needed a trig or integral or complex number or linear algebra, none of any of that.

but, here's the thing.

if you went to college, you probably had to take lots general education courses, such as: history, psychology, philosophy, literature, poetry, anatomy, physiology, and art, art history, architecture, performance arts, theater arts, dance, or music theory….

did you ever find them useful after college? Maybe once in a bar argument? However, your contact with them made you who you are. It makes up your brain, your perception, how you think, your decisions.

math for programing is like that. How much math you know shapes your perceptions and decisions, even though you never needed a trig or integral in your coding career.