Sunday, July 31, 2022

Math and Me

I used to pride myself at being excellent in math back in high school. That pride quickly disappeared in college, when I started taking truly hard math classes like advanced calculus, differential equations, and graph theory. My math struggles were demoralizing. I'm glad I'm no longer obliged to think about higher math. Plain math is enough for me.

Some might ask me, since I work in computers: Don't you have to know math to be a programmer? No, you do not. Of course, some programmers do need to be well-versed in math. Some of those include those who program 3-D games, or those who work in scientific simulations. I'm a garden-variety programmer, and I can assure you that math isn't required.

I thought about my past and present math prowess while looking at some FAANG job listings. I saw this sentence in a Facebook job post:

"Facebook's software test engineers can make $131237, which is 32% higher than the national average!"

The sentence was framed like a math problem from high school. What is the national average? To my surprise, it was a slight struggle to come up with this number. I pulled out pen and paper, defined my variable ("x"), then did some dividing and distributing, trying to recall basic algebra. After a few minutes I came up with the answer:

131237 / (1 + .32) = 99421.96

I threw this math problem at my wife, inviting her to figure out the national average. To my surprise and mild dismay she quickly said "it's around 99,000." She didn't even use a piece of paper! We had a lively conversation about she got to the answer so quickly. (Her intuition involved calculating 30% of $100,000.)

As I said, it's a good thing I'm not required to do any math for my work. 

From Internet Archive Book Image