What The Next Generation Needs Is Math, Not Programming

July 20, 2013 7:36 pm

Math is silently taking over the world. You can’t see it, but it is happening. For a generation immersed in the next photo app success story this might be difficult to imagine – but we live in a world driven by math. Algos drive most of our lives everyday – it is not just NASA or GE or stock market anymore. It is basically everything around us.

Programming is a tool, a very important one. But training a whole generation in Programming alone, ignoring the all-important Math that goes behind most things around us, would be a huge mistake. Yes, you can implement an algo. But how many of us can understand the algo? And how many of us can try to write the algo?

Take a step back and look around you. The apps and devices and screens and all of that – yes, they provide many lucrative opportunities in the short term – but it is the intelligent analysis of information that would be the most critical skill in a decade from now. After the noise around all the hot apps die, the signal will emerge – and it would carry this unambiguous message: intelligent analysis of large scale data is the future. And for that future, what you need is Math, not Programming.

Today, we can get away with ‘knowing’ how Google works without understanding what a ‘principal eigenvector’ is. Tomorrow, we need to absolutely know that. And that is something you cannot understand in a hurry.

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7 Comments for “What The Next Generation Needs Is Math, Not Programming”

  1. sascha

    I think learning programming could improve math skills. Many students have a really hard time understanding the abstract nature of mathematics. They learn how to calculate, learn formulas by heart, but don’t really understand what an equation or a variable is. Learning programming early on might help to develop abstract thinking in a fun way.

  2. Randy

    Yes. Programming is essential to understand how a virtual world actually works (which ours increasingly is becoming). Math reveals how those worlds *might* work and might work better.

    But of course, if you plan to be a passenger on this voyage and not a driver, you need not understand either subject — like most people and all our political leaders. This does make me wonder, how long before such obliviousness leads to their obsolescence in controlling their own lives?

    Maybe it’s true — either you program or you’ll be programmed by others…

  3. Will Rubin

    Not likely to happen. Math is way way harder than programming. For every 100 programmers there’s probably 1 person who’s going to be good at math. (That’s about 2%.) Not too many self taught mathematicians out there. The bunk of the entire software industry was built on the backs of mostly self taught coders. People who just wanted to tinker with new toys.

  4. Math is a subset of programming.

  5. Corey

    I believe most cs programs have a very heavy math curriculum and algo class. That is just to be able to program. If any of you took theory of computation you would also understand that math and computer science co exist and were derived from the same thing.

  6. I wholly agree. We can’t go on building new technology without a firm understanding of the basics. Yes, computers will be there to help us with many of the more tedious aspects, but we need to know the math in order to build better models of the world.

    This power of using math for modelling real world scenarios is what I try to teach readers in my math/phys books for adults. It’s never too late to learn the basics.

  7. Evade

    I call bullshit on the assertions that, “Google works without understanding what a ‘principal eigenvector’ is. Tomorrow, we need to absolutely know that.”

    This is jargon; nothing more. What do eigenvectors have to do with 99.9% of Google’s business.

    Some people will need to know that. Great, I won’t dispute that. Unless you’re making some kind of semantic argument about the nature of programming (which you havent articulated) then the next generation need programming more than they need math.

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