[Techtalk] Theory vs. practice

jhamilto at n2h2.com jhamilto at n2h2.com
Tue Jan 15 10:01:24 EST 2002

>However, I definitely consider myself a "computer professional" and I've
>never encountered difficulties doing my work (programming databases,
>coding in PHP & HTML, writing word processing macros & templates, network
>config & setup) that would have been prevented had I more math studies in

I actually feel that I would have benefited from doing lots more math in high school and college. I think working with computers requires learning step-by-step logical thinking which is what I believe exactly what math teaches you. a+b+<plug in a formula> = the answer. I'm coming from a system administration point of view where 75% of my job is solving problems. I quit taking math after math analysis (anal math, I liked to call it), and am now playing catch-up with real world problem solving.  I've read a couple of books on logical/critical thinking to sharpen my skills. 

Jen h.

-----Original Message-----
From: Glenda R. Snodgrass [mailto:grs at theneteffect.com]
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2002 5:41 PM
To: Telsa Gwynne
Cc: techtalk at linuxchix.org
Subject: Re: [Techtalk] Theory vs. practice

> Oddly enough, a friend on IRC was lamenting the decline of maths
> today. "How can you think you can program if you can't understand
> mathematics?" sort of thing. Not being a programmer, I wouldn't
> know. :)

I think maybe this should go to Issues with my comments here, but this has
been a sort of sore spot for me for a long time now (maybe I should name
this post Glenda's Pet Peeves Part Three).

I personally think one of the reasons so few women consider a career in
computers is because of the (IMO) over-emphasis on high-level math being
necessary to work in computers.  Now granted, to do high-level
programming, algorithms and such, high-level math is required.  But there
are many many many jobs in computers that require little or no math

I made As in math in high school, even took calculus my senior year, but
I'm no math prodigy and I haven't had a math class since that one simply
because I despised math classes, never took college-level calculus nor
statistics at all (I took "business math" in college and learned to
calculate loans and annuities).  My particular strength (intellectually)
is languages, not math, and I think that much of computer work is more
closely related to languages, learning foreign languages, communication
skills, etc.  I can diagram the hell out of a sentence in 4 languages but
I don't remember anything at all about calculating projectile
trajectories. :))

However, I definitely consider myself a "computer professional" and I've
never encountered difficulties doing my work (programming databases,
coding in PHP & HTML, writing word processing macros & templates, network
config & setup) that would have been prevented had I more math studies in
college. (When I need something like that for one of my PHP apps, I have
one of my partners write that little bit for me and I keep going.)
*shrug* Not to say I'm as good as Linus himself <BG> or that I'm capable
of coding an accounting software program on my own, I'm definitely not in
that class, but I think a lot of young girls interested in computers and
tech things (I've always been very mechanically inclined, loved to take
the vacuum cleaner apart and such) are discouraged from pursing a career
in the computer field because "it requires lots of math, you must be good
in math."

I think the computer field is much broader than that now, and this
misconception is keeping a lot of young girls out, who might otherwise be
giving it a try.

Glenda R. Snodgrass

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