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Computer Science- how much maths is needed, and what kind of maths?

I am looking forward to doing Computer Science A-level next year and am really nervous about just how much maths is needed, I am also taking Maths A-level and am fairly adequate in the subject I just would like to know what to expect. #computer-science #coding #maths

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Daniel’s Answer

Right kind of hard to answer.


Day to day as a professional in software, the typical amount of math required is 0. However, that's a bit misleading for two reasons. First, getting to the point where you can wrap your head around the logic required to effectively write software is a different matter altogether. So while studying, you probably need a lot more math. Second, software and computer science can be very different - if we're talking academic computer science, then depending on the specific field you may need more math (but the overwhelming majority of people who study computer science in school do not end up working professionally in academic comp sci - most of us have to go into the corporate world and write software).


So:


Even for a CS course which doesn't directly require math, having a better math background may make it easier for you to think in the right way. When push comes to shove, computers are very unforgiving, precise things which don't behave at all when things aren't done in a perfectly logical manner. Math helps with that.


Depending on the CS course (but probably not intro level), you may end up using a lot of logic & proof (so... actual math, not arithmetic). Later on, if you take more networking courses then graph theory could help a lot. If you end up doing machine learning, then statistics helps a lot. For complexity theory, it'd be good to have some knowledge of exponents, logarithms, etc. If you end up doing crypto, then well it's basically just pure math not even software anyways :P


But really, for most CS courses you don't have specific math requirements. It just really helps with the thinking.

Thank you comment icon thank you! farheen
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Daniel’s Answer

It really depends on your program. My undergraduate program in computer science required linear algebra and discrete math. My graduate program in software engineering required statistics. In practice, you'll be building algorithms that need to work empirically and be performant, but you likely won't need to apply math proofs or big-O notation.

Calculus in particular is almost certainly not something you'll need to worry about. I took calculus in college as an elective, and while it's a mind expanding thing to learn and certainly can come in useful in certain branches of computer science (like neural networks), unless your day job involves those things you probably won't use it. There is far less math involved in computer science programs relative to engineering disciplines, like computer engineering or electrical engineering.

Comparing statistics and data science is a great illustration of the difference between pure math and how it is actually applied in most computer science domains. For example, a statistical approach to modeling data involves building a simple model and then using diagnostics to see if the data is consistent with the assumptions in the model. In contrast, a data science approach is to create a bunch of models, use them to make predictions, compare the predictive approach of the different models, and choose the best one. Interpretability is often not as important as an ability to come up with the right answer, which is why neural networks are so popular.
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Kartikaya’s Answer

It depends on what challenges you wanna take up in your career. Think of Math as an exercise to improve your logical thinking which is usable in any field that you wanna pursue. Most software engineer jobs require you to think logically to make decisions and get things done so I would suggest you take Math to train yourself by solving math problems which would make your work life easier. Definitely don't feel nervous about Math as it's only one of the ways to train your logical thinking and if you don't enjoy it then there are several other ways to achieve the same results.
In software engineering, I haven't seen a lot of Math being used in the form that is taught us in college or school until and unless you want to become a Data Scientist in that case you will have to train yourself with Calculus which is again not a requirement but would definitely help.

I use to be nervous about Math when I was young but I changed my attitude towards it which made me realize its potential and I hope whatever Math courses you take definitely try to have fun with it.
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