#CSEdWeek: Math is Kinda Important!

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problemsolverssmallMath is essential to a successful career in computer science. That’s right! Jobs such as those listed below require algebra, calculus, discrete math, and other courses.

  • Software engineer/developer (every industry)
  • Social network analysis
  • Gaming
  • Anti-terrorism/cybercrime/fraud detection
  • Data scientist (sports/business/finance)

Math and computer science share terminology and notation. Computer scientists use math concepts and skills every day. As Brian Greene says, "monumental upheavals in science have emerged time and again from following the leads set out by mathematics." You want to work with computers? Math needs to become second nature.

Concept: Algebra
Early in an algebra course, students learn to define, evaluate, simplify, and operate with functions. These skills are critical in higher level algebra courses when students learn about a fifth function operation: composition. The composition of functions is the result of evaluating one function in a second function. That is, given f(x) and g(x), we can define the composition of the functions as f(g(x)) and g(f(x)).

Given f(x) = 2x + 3 and g(x) = x + 1,

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Given a function that adds “s” to the end of a word, add-s(“run”) = “runs”,  and a function that puts two words together, sentence(“day”, “tripper” = “day tripper”, the composite function third-person(verb) = sentence(“she”, add-s(verb)) represents the singular form of a verb.Within code, programmers use composition to represent a specific process. The idea is to take a known and produce different results. Here’s an example of a simple code to create a sentence.

  • third-person(“sing”) = “she sings”
  • third-person(“drive”) = “she drives”
  • third-person(“work”) = “she works”

Source: http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~bh/ssch3/part2.html

Skill: Problem Solving
Problem solving is a key mathematical skill. Mathematically proficient students can do the following:

  • Analyze and make sense of a problem
  • Consider multiple methods for finding a solution
  • Develop a plan of action
  • Determine the validity of the solution

In algebra, students learn to factor. For example, students learn that 3x + 6 = 3(x + 6). Later in higher level courses such as pre-calculus, students use factoring to prove trigonometric identities. For example, students prove that

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Programmers are problem solvers! Like proficient math students, programmers must be persistent, patient, logical, and accurate. As you consider a future in computer science, remember this: the skills you learn in math courses will be critical in your career.

Want to get started? Try out our free online Algebra 1 course!

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About Author

Staci Lyon

Staci Lyon is a mathematics curriculum specialist with Curriculum Pathways. She taught high school mathematics for 12 years in Wake County and Granville County. She also taught with North Carolina Virtual Public School. She received both a M.Ed. degree in Instructional Technology and a B. S. degree in Mathematics Education from North Carolina State University. Working alongside a team, she enjoys developing the award winning online math resources for Curriculum Pathways that allow teachers to integrate technology into their classrooms. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.

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