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Do I have to be good at math to code?

Here at Codecademy, one question we hear a lot is: “Do I have to be good at math to code?” To answer this question, we spoke with developers from the Codecademy team and our larger community during a recent Women in Tech Panel live event to hear their thoughts on the topic.

In general, programming is an incredibly diverse field. Being good at math is important for certain types of programming, like designing games and inventing complex algorithms. But for many other types of programming, such as developing business or web applications, you can become a successful programmer without having to study advanced math.

“You don’t need to be good at math to be a good software developer. We have so many folks here [at Codecademy] who maybe don’t have that much experience with math and computer science and are great developers,” shares Sanam, a Software Engineer on our team.

Solving problems

As a programmer, you’re more likely to apply existing algorithms and technologies to solve a particular problem. And even though math goes into building many of these tools, you don’t necessarily need to know how the math works in order to use these tools effectively. In much the same way, you can become a skilled driver without knowing the details behind how a car engine works.

“It’s great if you have that mathematical background, but you just need to be able to problem solve. A lot of it is just sticking with a problem,” says Mariel, a Codecademy Curriculum Developer.

Negar, a Machine Learning Engineer who leads the Codecademy Georgia Chapter, shares similar advice: “I think you should be good at problem solving, and that’s why people get confused that they have to do calculus while coding. No, you just have to solve problems and use basic logic, that’s it.”

A large part of problem solving involves defining the problem and breaking it down into smaller, more manageable tasks. “Learning how to break down a problem and articulate that problem is a skillset that’s really key to being a successful developer,” says Taylor, a Full-Stack Developer and Consultant for our Back-End Engineer Career Path.

Sophie, a Curriculum Developer focusing on Codecademy’s Data Science content, shares that being skilled at math — while not a prerequisite for coding — can be a useful tool for problem solving. “You’re going to have a problem that you have to solve, and you need to figure out what tools you can use to solve it. Mathematics is really like a toolbox that you can tap into to solve those problems. In my everyday job, what I use are problem solving and research skills to figure out which tools to use,” Sophie tells us.

Collaborating with others

In addition to problem solving, coding involves being able to collaborate with others to tackle complex challenges. “In agile development, and at every company that I’ve worked in, the culture has been about working as a team, where you’re problem solving, but you’re also sharing and working with others and giving feedback. You need to have great communication skills and collaboration skills,” Sanam says.

Creative thinking

Another important skill for developers is creative thinking. When it comes to solving a coding problem, you’ll often come across a number of possible solutions. Your job as a developer is to discover the best possible solution given your unique set of constraints, which requires a combination of creativity, curiosity, and determination.

Shirley, a Software Engineer here at Codecademy and previously a Fashion Designer, shares her thoughts on creativity: “A lot of people think that coding is extremely analytical, and you have to have insane technical skills. But I personally think that coding is extremely creative. If you come from a background where you love art, and you love problem solving, I think that you are extremely prepared to be a coder.”

The bottom line is, you don’t have to be good at math to become a great developer. Instead, focusing on problem solving, collaboration, and creative thinking can allow you to take your programming skills to the next level, wherever you may be on your coding journey.

Ready to start your own coding journey? Check out our full catalog of courses to learn more and to get started.

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Lillian Xiao

Lillian Xiao

Lillian writes about tech & engineering. She has a background in user experience design, and loves coding as a way to turn ideas into reality.

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Do I have to be good at math to code?
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