Math for programmers

I mentioned Math for Programmers in the last post. My own experience leading me to reach the conclusion that I should also “repair my rusty math skills” expanded beyond what fit into the post… I should know more math. Especially more of what is possible and at least the name of the math one might use to accomplish it. It took me something like 2 hours a few weeks ago when I trying to remember how I’d plot a bunch of things in a circle because I was writing a little script to draw a diagram. I knew it was easy, but I could not remember how to turn angle/distance into x, y to plot in an image. It turns out I was trying to remember “Polar coordinates”. My goal over the next several months is to expand the realm of math I know enough about to know roughly what it might be good for and the name in case I want to apply it to something. In high school, math class was mostly interesting, fun, and pretty easy. I hated the awful exercises and I hated “showing my work”, though. Sometimes there was no work! But I had to write out the steps we were expected to use anyway. It was pretty easy, though, and I easily got good grades through high school math without much work. When I got to college, though, Calculus 4 just about killed me. I hated that class. I still loved word problems, but I hated having to do it all by hand. Calculus seemed to be me to be about 1 part “cool” and 8712 parts memorization and awful. The example word problems were so obviously contrived to exercise one (1) idea that I couldn’t identify with them. It was very hard to slog through it. That math just didn’t apply to anything I was interested in doing. I never needed to know the volume of a perfectly shaped water tower.

The little experience with the graphic is an example of something that’s been happening to me more lately — slightly more interesting-than-arithmetic math getting between me and something I want to do. Thus the decision to fix that. I plan to study it differently than the way it was presented to me in high school college, though. Rather than slog off to a classroom I’m required to be in to graduate and do a billion useless exercises, I’m going to study the math that interests me. The math that applies to something I want to do, some program I want to write. I’m going to study math in a way in way that I’ll remember and like it.

It has been interesting seeing how much of what I studied so reluctantly so long ago is still there, lurking, waiting for me to come across the right terms again to remember it.

Anyway, the Math for Programmers post was really dead-on for my thoughts about this now.