What Types of Math Do Computer Programmers Use?

By Keith Perry

Computer programming touches almost every aspect of our lives. Software applications for our computers is commonly thought of when computer programming is mentioned. However, programming of embedded devices can be found in cars, cell phones, video games, appliances and door locks. Computer applications are available for education, entertainment and work that use different types of mathematics.

Basic Programming Math

Binary math is at the core of how any computer operates. Binary is used to represent each number in the computer. Reading and simple mathematical operations with binary is critical for low-level programming of hardware. Understanding how to work with hexadecimal number system is required for many programming functions such as setting the color of an object. Standard arithmetic is used in many functions of programming. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division is used in almost every program written. Algebra is used to solve simple problems that many computer programmers will encounter.

Advanced Programming Math

Obtaining a computer science degree requires completing many math classes. These include college algebra, statistics, calculus I and calculus II. These classes are applied in two different ways for computer programming. The most obvious is using the math taught to solve complex equations. The less obvious is the skills learned to master advanced math is similar to the skills required to build complex applications. These skills include logic and following complicated step-by-step processes.

Application-Specific Math

The application for the program being created will often dictate the specific type of math techniques required. Linear algebra is often used for transformation of matrices. Matrix transformation is found in both 2D and 3D modeling as seen in computer-aided design and photo editing software. Differential equations can be found in software to simulate traffic or health conditions. Statistics is used in many computer programming applications including polling systems, reports and card games.