When it comes to coding, we often hear questions like
- Do I need to be a math genius to start coding?
- I am not good at math. Can I learn to code?
- How much mathematics do I need to succeed in coding?
These are all valid questions because math is a crucial part of coding, and we often use various mathematical operations to build programming logic.
However, it doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in coding; a basic understanding of entry-level mathematics will be enough to get started.
This blog will help you understand the requirement of math in coding and give you an idea of how much math is required to succeed at coding.
Do you have to be good at math to learn to code?
As mentioned earlier, a basic understanding of different mathematical operations will definitely help your coding career. However, you don’t have to be an expert at it.
Just knowing about mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and the power of a number will be enough for you to start.
All these operations will be used to solve various logical problems. For example,
- Multiplications to find area, simple interest, volume, and so on.
- Division operations to check odd/even numbers, prime numbers, and so on.
You can see just with multiplication and division, we can solve multiple coding questions. Hence, we can say if you don’t know how to integrate a polynomial or complex statistical algorithm, you can still learn to code without any issues.
However, after a certain level, you may want to advance your career in the fields like Data Science, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence. Then, you will need to learn some high-level mathematics like Calculus, Linear Algebra, Probability, and Statistics.
So, let us look at the level of mathematics we need to do various tasks in computer science.
What Kind of Math is Needed for Coding?
As a requirement for coding, we can divide the overall mathematics into two categories:
- Basic Mathematics
A beginner programmer needs to use basic mathematics to solve common programming problems to get the hang of some programming concepts.
These mathematical problems are elementary and don’t require specialized knowledge of any particular field. Basic mathematics can be further divided into Arithmetic and Algebra.
As mentioned, beginner programmers must learn mathematic operators like division, multiplication, addition, and subtraction. These are called Arithmetic Operators and are used heavily when you start learning to code.
There are multiple types of algebra, but as a beginner programmer, you need to know two:
- Simple Algebra – contains rules and formulae to solve equations and find values
- Boolean Algebra – includes a basic understanding of how binary numbers work in computers
After you have mastered the programming language basics and want to dive deep into a sub-field that requires maths, you might have to move towards a bit more advanced concept.
So, let us now explore a few high-level math you may need in your career.
- High-Level Mathematics
High-level mathematics is used for multiple use cases such as programming game engines, creating 3D Models, AI and ML systems, data analysis, data visualization, and more.
Here are some high-level mathematics that you may need to use in specialized domains:
Trigonometry and Geometry
To learn game programming, you’d have to use trigonometry to perform various calculations. Similarly, 3D modeling requires programmers to play with vectors and coordinate systems. Even physics is used while building games.
If you want to work for various research organizations such as NASA, you’d need to be able to code differentials and integrals, solve partial and ordinary differential equations, and more.
Probability and Statistics
Every new programmer wants to learn AI, Machine Learning, Data Science, etc. For these fields, you need to have a good knowledge of Probability and Statistics, which lets us play around with data, make different hypotheses and test them.
We need to use Linear Algebra to determine the correlation between different data points. Correlation and Regression together make things like image classification possible. So, if you are into Data Science and AI, get familiar with linear algebra.
Don’t worry if these topics sound a bit complicated to you. These are all advanced concepts you may need after certain years of coding.
For now, you can start learning to code and then see if things feel complicated or not.
What Fields of Computer Science Require Advanced Math?
Computer Science itself is a huge discipline with multiple fields, and many of these fields don’t require high-level mathematics.
For instance, you will never use high-level mathematics to build a website as a web developer. But when you are creating an AI to analyze text, you might need to use advanced mathematics.
That being said, here is a list of Computer Science fields that require math along with the kind of math they need:
1. Data Science
In data science, we have to process a lot of data. This vast data processing requires programmers to use optimized algorithms.
Programmers mostly use linear algebra concepts for it. For example, we need linear algebra to perform a Correlation and Regression Analysis on data.
2. Machine Learning
Machine learning (ML) lets computers draw conclusions based on vast training data. Such massive data processing requires programmers to employ mathematical techniques.
ML engineers use algorithms such as Back Propagation to train neural networks and Bayes’ Theorem to figure out conditional probabilities.
So, you will need a good knowledge of probability, statistics, and calculus for Machine Learning.
3. Data Analysis
Data analysis is used to gain insights from vast organizational data. So, it would help if you had a firm grasp of Probability and Statistics.
For example, we can use Inferential Statistics to make predictions about specific hypotheses.
4. Game Engine Design
Not only does video game engineer needs knowledge of maths, but they also need to have a solid grasp of physics.
Game engineers need to use trigonometry and coordinate geometry in addition to concepts from physics such as momentum, friction, laws of motion, and more.
Non-Mathematical Skills Required to Learn Coding
In reality, non-mathematical skills are far more critical if you want to learn to code. Here are a few of them:
1. Problem Solving
While learning to code, it is essential to think about how you can solve a problem and then use the most efficient way to solve it.
The approach to solving a mathematical problem is different in programming, as you don’t have to perform manual calculations. You can get the values from the users and write the mathematical formula in code to find out different things like area, perimeter, volume, etc.
Similarly, you don’t have to write complex algorithms from scratch while coding, as most algorithms are already available.
You just need to be able to use the algorithms for different applications.
As a programmer, you need to collaborate and work in a team.
Most developers in a company work separately on their tasks. But one task may depend on the completion of another task.
So, coders need to write clean code that their peers can understand, and they might also need to explain the code occasionally, which makes communication and collaboration vital in programming.
You’ve probably noticed that high school math problems always have a single correct answer.
But programming is not like that. There is no one correct answer when you code. Instead, you can use your creativity to solve problems in multiple ways.
Coders must also create novel solutions to problems and think critically about the system they are developing.
As a programmer, you will also encounter many bugs and issues, some of which can be new, so solving problems creatively is a big part of coding.
Coming back to our original question, do you have to be good at math to learn to code? I would say Yes, a basic of mathematics does ease your path of learning to code. However, you don’t have to be an expert.
You can just start your coding journey first and see for yourself. If some part requires you to know mathematics first, you can always go back to the textbook to learn those concepts.