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How Much Math Do You Need to Know to be a Programmer?

For most programming jobs, all the math you need to know is how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and find minimum/maximum/average values.

There are specialized jobs and industries where additional math knowledge is helpful – and may even be required.

But, most jobs will be writing software like order entry, inventory management, or work process tracking applications. You’ll only need to do things like multiply quantity times price, then add sales tax.

It never hurts to know more math. It’s possible you may be in a job that usually doesn’t require math, but you eventually have one project where more math knowledge is required. So, don’t stop learning, once you know how to calculate averages.

One type of math that is helpful to learn is “set theory“. If you start working with SQL databases, you’ll find the “table joins” are set theory applied to data. Understanding set theory will help you when you write SQL queries.

The most complicated math I had to do for a program was in an application that determined the construction requirements for a petroleum processing facility. The math here was important. If we calculated the wrong values, it could lead to dangerously unsafe equipment.

The company knew programmers wouldn’t know the equations to calculate these numbers. So, they assigned engineers to the team who knew the equations and could create tests for use to check if we implemented them correctly.

There are programming jobs that require deeper math knowledge: high-frequency investment trading, efficient routing for deliveries, and some data science work. But most jobs only require nothing more than high school algebra.

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