A frequently asked question is How important is math in programming? In this blog post, we will dive into math in programming. How important is math in programming? What math do you need in your day-to-day work as a programmer? At the end of this post, you should have a clear picture of how important math is in programming.

I’m Jelle, I was a backend developer for several years. The last class I took in math was in high school at age 16. The last topic we touched on was the Pythagorean theorem at the Dutch VMBO level (general education development for Americans). Did my lack of math skills give me any issues in my developer career?

How important is math in programming?

One of the first remarks I got when I told non-programmer people that I was a developer is “you must be good at math“. It is a common misconception that if you want to be a programmer you need a solid mathematical background.

This is not the case! In over 5 years as a developer, I hardly used anything more complex than additions, subtraction & percentages in my day-to-day work. In those other cases, googling your subject or watching a Youtube video was helpful enough.

The skills to be good at math and programming do overlap. To be good at math you need to be good at logical thinking, and able to think algorithmically. Dividing your problems into smaller steps to solve X.

How important is math in programming? In most cases, you will do fine with the basics. Additions, subtractions & percentages should solve 90% of your day-to-day work.

Do you want to become a better programmer? Check what most overlooked skill you need to learn to become a better programmer.

How important is math in programming?
How important is math in programming?

In what cases does math help?

In programming, you will learn a lot of things regarding the domain you are working on. I’ve worked for several years in the printing domain. I had no related knowledge, but building on features for several years taught me several printing-related topics.

You can say the same for math. If you are working on domains or features that do not require maths, you probably don’t need math skills. In my years as a backend developer, I learned more about business logic, like shipping regulations, printing terminology, and APIs than maths.

However, if you spend your time on a math-heavy domain like taxes or statistics you might do better with maths. Calculating and checking if you have applied the correct taxes on your e-commerce webshop goes a lot easier if you have a solid understanding of percentages.

Back-end developer math

What back-end developer math can be useful? You will primarily be working on building back-end systems, integrating or building APIs, and many more. In these cases, the back-end developer math I used the most was related to getting better performance. Some examples:

  • Using the Big O notation to get better performance.
  • Optimize algorithms to be able to do more in fewer queries or operations.

Conclusion

How important is math in programming? Like all good questions, the answer is not really black & white. Having experience with math does not hurt. But it is not as important as most people might think. It depends, if you are going to work on a topic that does not require math skills it could be you never need it. Are you going to work on a math-heavy topic like taxes or statistics? In that case, you have benefits from knowing your math.

To summarize:

  • In most cases, you just need the basics of math.
  • The skillset you need to be good at math and programming overlap. The ability to think logically and solve problems.
  • Some domains you will be working on need more math skills than others.

I hope you enjoyed this post. And you were able to answer the question: How important is math in programming? To keep up to date on new posts, and level up your skillset as a developer subscribe to the newsletter or follow me on Twitter.