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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 :\
You are looking to gather opinions, so will offer mine.
You are not too old to enter college. I certainly understand at 25 your desire to get to it, not spend another year. I would cram and try to do it this year. But that is me.

I was a math major. My main career is not in math or programming, but I have been involved in programming for 45 years. I think the math background is highly useful in disciplining the mind, logic, development of algorithms, etc.

That people who go into software engineering often have computer science/maths/physics backgrounds (like myself) maybe tells you something, but equally, I know a good many people in the field that have come from other backgrounds. Note also a couple things:

1. Writing software isn't solely about logically thinking things through - you need some amount of creativity and the ability to weigh up pros and cons of solutions, for example.

2. Software engineering isn't just about writing code! There are other things too, both technical (like having to monitor the systems you build, diagnosing network issues, ...) and non-technical (working with people, understanding how to prioritise, ...).
Several points need to be considered IMHO
  • You take it for granted that you are going to fool the math examiner on your level in mathematics through rote learning, but this is far from obvious to me and you need to consider the possibility that this strategy may lead you to fail at the entrance exam.
  • If there are math questions at the entrance exam, it is probably because some of the courses need a certain math level and you will find yourself struggling with these courses and perhaps fail because of this. Again, the teachers will soon discover your actual level in mathematics.
  • Whatever your choice, it seems obvious to me that you need to study math properly in order to acquire the level needed for this curriculum. You can perhaps do this in parallel with your studies. I teach math and I know that you can find textbooks and exercices online for every possible level in mathematics. Like programming, skills in maths come from practice. If you do seriously a single math exercise every day, your level may increase dramatically. It has similarities with body-building.
  • I'm not so sure math is that important to professional software engineers (which I'm not). Logical thinking and reasoning is, but it can also be acquired by practicing programming. Of course, it depends on your subject of interest. A good knowledge of statistics will certainly help if you work on machine learning, and a high level in partial differential equations will help if you program subsoil imaging in geophysics. Math won't probably help you much if you are designing commercial websites. Software engineering is a vast domain.
  • Being 25, it would be better of course if you don't waste a year. Only you can determine if it is possible.
It depends on the project.

I stuck on one of mine just because of a lack of certain math knowledge. So I have to find a math guy :)

However, I am not a professional developer
"As they say in Mexico 'dosvidaniya'. That makes two vidaniyas."

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