Monday, September 2, 2013

Calculus and Coding... nom, nom, nom.

I have two secrets to confess:

1. I love Calculus. 
I always have. It just seemed to clean, and intuitive. I don't mean to say that it came easy to me, but learning it was not burdensome. And once I understood, I was hooked. Calculus is what made me want to be a math major.

2. I avoided computer programming like the plague throughout high school and college. 
Funny, right, because that is the basis for everything I do now. But, the first program I wrote was as a grad student. I don't know why I avoided it so long. I loved math. But, in my mind programming seemed so wildly different from math that it was intimidating, I really didn't see why I needed it, and nobody I knew was into it. And then, like Calculus, I learned how wonderful coding is, and haven't looked back.

I wish I would have learned programming earlier. Part of my hesitation was fear that it would be too hard, but part of it was that no one ever mentioned it. But maybe I could have gotten over my fear, if I knew others who were doing it. I wasn't encouraged to investigate it, and no one I hung out with coded. Or, if they did, we didn't talk about it. Luckily there are programs to help get young people introduced to technology. For example:

Math is not Computer Science.
I recently realized that my experience is a bit strange because a lot of people equate math with coding. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they are quite different, but both wonderful. In my mind, learning to code is like learning to speak a new language, while math is deciphering the syntax of an ancient language. Mathematics is a way to understand the world, while coding is a way to interact. Mathematics and coding work very well together, but are not dependent upon one another.

But, Mathematics and Comp Sci do have some similarities.
Women are underrepresented in both mathematics and computer science. Terri Oda put together this amazing presentation describing how biology explains the low numbers of women in computer science:

How does biology explain the low numbers of women in computer science? Hint: it doesn't. from Terri Oda

Please also read this excellent interview of Terri Oda by Ciara Byrne here. Perhaps the best quotation is:
"Women in computing tend to have to waste an awful lot of time answering questions related to being a woman in computing. Case in point: My male colleagues are doing science while I'm taking time to answer this email. "

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