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Thread: How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solving?

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    How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solving?

    I'm well aware that you can learn programming, data science, etc... without being good at math, but one thing I always keep hearing is that; the better you are with math concepts, the better your problem-solving skills become. Seeing how many things in programming derives from concepts in math (functions, vectors, matrices, etc...), do you believe having a strong foundation in math would help someone in this type of field?

    I'm asking this because I'm in a bit of a tough situation right now. I'm looking to enter college this year and I have only 3.5 months left to prepare for the entrance exam.

    The entrance exam is 10 math questions, and let me tell you that my knowledge in math is really, really bad (something like 7th or 8th grade perhaps)

    While I think that I have enough time to prepare myself for the exam, I think that the only way for me to pass it would be through rote learning. So I'm in a bit of a pickle where I can choose to either pause this year and study math properly to establish good foundation, or I can go with the plan right now, enter college sooner and not 'waste' a year.

    I've heard a lot that having a good foundation in math is beneficial in software engineering, so I would like to know based on the replies I get what course of action I should take.

    As I matured, I began to find math actually very interesting, and it's a science which I would love to study properly, to help me in "abstract thinking" and improve my problem-solving skills, because if I'm looking to be a software engineer, I may as well give it my best, so I hope it would help. However, if I take the entrance exam this year, it'll be as I said, through rote learning. I won't be able to quite understand all the concepts clearly, but at least I won't need to wait another year just to enter college.

    I really want to hear your opinions on this, how much beneficial is math for software engineers? Does having a strong foundation lead to better problem solving? If two programmers were assigned a task and both of them have spent an equal amount of time (let's say 10k hours) practicing programmers, but one has better math knowledge than the other, would that person be able to produce a better/faster solution than the other guy?

    A slightly off-topic question I'd like to ask is: As someone who is 25 years old, am I old to enter college? I never knew what I wanted to do in life, so after graduating high school, I never planned which college I would go to, but now that I know, I'm think I'll feel awkward being the oldest guy in the class :\

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    2kaud is offline Super Moderator Power Poster
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    Re: How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solvi

    Not sure in which country you intend to apply. In the UK where an entrance exam is used (here offers are usually based on A level grades [which must include mathematics] with some exceptions), good marks cannot normally be obtained by just 'rote learning' - underlying concepts and logical thinking are required. Have you seen examples of/tried previous entrance exams?

    Re your question concerning the benefit of maths for software. This depends mostly upon the type of software. If it has a large algorithm content, then good knowledge of some areas of mathematics (eg discrete, numerical etc) would certainly be of benefit. This also applies to courses. Some have much more mathematical content than others. eg a course on Operating Systems can have a large mathematical content or minimal depending upon the course. Have you looked at different colleges to compare course contents etc?
    All advice is offered in good faith only. All my code is tested (unless stated explicitly otherwise) with the latest version of Microsoft Visual Studio (using the supported features of the latest standard) and is offered as examples only - not as production quality. I cannot offer advice regarding any other c/c++ compiler/IDE or incompatibilities with VS. You are ultimately responsible for the effects of your programs and the integrity of the machines they run on. Anything I post, code snippets, advice, etc is licensed as Public Domain https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ and can be used without reference or acknowledgement. Also note that I only provide advice and guidance via the forums - and not via private messages!

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    Re: How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solvi

    Quote Originally Posted by larridde View Post
    I'm asking this because I'm in a bit of a tough situation right now. I'm looking to enter college this year and I have only 3.5 months left to prepare for the entrance exam.

    The entrance exam is 10 math questions, and let me tell you that my knowledge in math is really, really bad (something like 7th or 8th grade perhaps)
    Unless you're majoring in Mathematics I don't think you need to worry about the math. The focus will be on applied math rather than deep theory. And after the traditional math courses during the freshman year like calculus, linear algebra and statistics the math will be equally new to everyone. The first year may be a challenge but after that you're not worse off than anyone else.

    So I would sit the entry exam and start college if accepted.

    Seeing how many things in programming derives from concepts in math (functions, vectors, matrices, etc...), do you believe having a strong foundation in math would help someone in this type of field?
    In the 1970's Computer Science/Programming broke out of the math department and established a foundation of its own. This is the foundation your education in Software Engineering will be based on. It will supply you with the math skills you need to become an excellent programmer. It will improve your abstract thinking and problem solving capabilities. Math knowledge beyond that should be thought of as an application skill just like knowledge about biology of physics or economics or whatever field. Application proficiency in any field including math is an asset of course but it doesn't necessarily make you a better programmer.
    Last edited by wolle; March 15th, 2020 at 01:48 PM.

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    Re: How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solvi

    I already knew a fair bit of C++ by the time I was in college from high school classes. We had to write our first program, which, gives change based on an amount given. We were supposed to do it with the % remainder, but I was the first person to finish it, and I did it algorithmically with a few loops instead of using remainder. Teacher said it isn't how it was supposed to be done, but it worked perfectly so I got an A :shrug:

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    Arjay is offline Moderator / EX MS MVP Power Poster
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    Re: How important is math for software engineering, and does it help in problem solvi

    Quote Originally Posted by Uranium-235 View Post
    I already knew a fair bit of C++ by the time I was in college from high school classes. We had to write our first program, which, gives change based on an amount given. We were supposed to do it with the % remainder, but I was the first person to finish it, and I did it algorithmically with a few loops instead of using remainder. Teacher said it isn't how it was supposed to be done, but it worked perfectly so I got an A :shrug:
    In professional software development, it is important to consider the maintainability of the software and the other developers that come along afterwards to maintain it. As such it often beneficial to develop using standard, common approaches so the software can be maintained later.

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