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Boltimus

Can you become an above average programmer?

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If you''re an average student in Math, is it still possible to become an above average programmer? The reason I''m asking is because I''m average in Math (I understand the Math, etc..) but I really love programming and it comes to me relatively easy. The way I look at, I can understand math formulas''s (when I need to) and can look up Physics equations (when I have to). Just because I don''t automatically recall some Physics equations or may occasionally have to look up something (i.e. quadratic formula, or an integral in an integral table) does this mean that I''ll suck as a programmer? I hear some people say that the two are almost synonomous. Sincerely, ~Bolt

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Don''t let people tell you what you can''t do. Math and programming both take analytical thinking--but you say programming comes easy for you, so you must have that. I think it''s always better to understand a mathematical formula than to memorize it, and having a photographic memory doesn''t mean you''re smart.

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Certainly, I suck at Calculus and am still a very above average programmer (at least according to my peers, professors, friends, etc. Of course I''m also considered a weirdo who has no life outside of computers, which is a partial truth too).

As long as you understand basic algebra and have a strong grasp of logic (I would say that logic skills are actually more important than math skills) you can do whatever you want. Except for games where I would suggest that you also know your geometry (vectors, planes, dot product, how to actually use all of that), and matrix stuff (if you want to ever to 3D, which is why I don''t since I''m weak in that area).

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Guest Anonymous Poster
At higher levels CS is just a different breed of Math. Coding/hacking/software engineering on the other hand often times has little to do with Math, aside from basic propositional logic. More advanced topics in CS such as AI, compilers, etc. require a wider variety of Math than you are exposed to at the Calculus level. At most universities/colleges you eventually reach a point where you do "proof"-based Math. If you can do well up to that point and perhaps a little farther, you''ll do fine in even advanced areas of CS.

As for having to look things up, I have to do that now and then, and I have an undergraduate degree in Math. Whether or not you remember some obscure topic you barely used in recent years has little to do with intelligence. It does help though.

You''ll do fine.

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quote:
Original post by Anonymous Poster
At higher levels CS is just a different breed of Math.

This is pretty much true, but that''s not what programming is generally about. Programming is not a science, and has more to do with creativity and aptitude than any formal science. The chances are that someone such as the OP who apparently loves programming and takes to it easily will end up being a very good programmer, regardless of their math or CS abitilites.


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Most programming books I''ve read that address your question say math is good but structured thinking is more important.

"A man can''t just sit around." ''Lawn Chair'' Larry Walters (1982)

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Most important of all, do not lose focus. You must get in the habit of retaining all formalities you come across, and absorbing advice as it is given to you. Technical work, unlike science, is almost 100% black-and-white if you look at the individual parts. It starts to get more grayscale as you zoom out to look at a system (i.e. you need to consider more than simply speed vs. size as a criterion for choosing one method over another), but if someone gives you a formal way to performa a task, it's probably better than an informal way, and when you question it, you should question it scientifically.

Other than that, the mathematics of programming is the derivation of program units, also known as algorithms. The remainder is synthesis, and synthesis is not mathematics or science - it is engineering. In spite of the possibility of offending, I dare venture to say that the Russian-Jewish musicians, art teachers, historians, translators, and street sweeps who came into this country and became programmers do not constitute the upper part of the mathematical or scientific strata of education.

[edited by - Gaylesaver on May 4, 2002 11:33:37 PM]

[edited by - gaylesaver on May 4, 2002 11:34:42 PM]

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