Math-y and/or word-y

I’m a developer who (formerly) recoiled at math, especially calculus and matrices.

Instead, I thought, I loved the language-y parts of software development. Programming languages, little languages, domain-specific languages. Designing the names, concepts, and relationships in APIs. Domain-driven design, jargon, modeling. I thought of myself as more of a writer-y developer than a math-y developer.

I suspect that I’m not alone amongst programmers in favoring liberal arts over sciences. Further, I suspect that over the past two decades the number of programmers with science-y backgrounds has steadily declined.

But, it turns out I do a lot more math than I thought! SQL is set theory. Layout is math (mostly about centering things 🤷). State machines reduce many kinds of logic problems to simple, but math-y, flowcharts. Almost every bit of programming one does is logic, which is, you guessed it, math.

And that only covers web apps! Computer graphics is a heck of a lot of trigonometry (and whatever is involved in calculating diffusion of light). Machine learning is lots of statistics plus a little calculus. Type checking in compilers is category and/or set theory.

The flip side is also true: developers who think they only enjoy the math-y parts do a lot more language/liberal artsy stuff than they think. They’ve got opinions about language constructs, whether a method name is good or not, if an API is easy to use correctly or not. All “soft” non-math-y constructs!

When it comes down to it, it’s more likely that poor math education let me down than I am fundamentally not a math person. Related: Why Math Class Is Boring—and What to Do About It:

There are two types of people in the world: those who enjoyed mathematics class in school, and the other 98% of the population.