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Is there any benefits to learning calculus for computer programming?

Posted on 2010-01-10
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Is there any benefits to learning calculus for computer programming other than just developing better logic skills. I'm thinking about going back to school for computer science but I can't gather the motivation to brush up on my math in preparation of the calculus courses I would need to take.

With no knowledge of the other sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, etc.) is there anything that I could use a knowledge of calculus to create?

BTW, my long-term goal is to create programs for the web and smartphones, as well as doing web design. Is calculus going to be beneficial to me in any way at all?
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Question by:akromyk4
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by:jazzIIIlove
ID: 26278890
Well, I am 30 years old, and I have taken Calculus courses 10 years ago, yet, I haven't encountered a Calculus stuff in my current position.

But the question is what if I encounter? do I regret of not taking it? or a relief that I had taken?
This should be the question of yours whether it's web or smartphones, you may end up with calculating integration or a differential stuff. Yet, I don't think you will face them, but what if?
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by:Infinity08
ID: 26278938
Except for problems that explicitly require calculus (mathematical models eg., or some 3d programming, ...), you won't encounter it very often in your programming endeavours. Of course, it all depends in what area you'll be programming.

There are more generally useful mathematical domains for programming, like logic, or statistics, or ...
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by:akromyk4
ID: 26278946
Not very motivational, but thanks for your honesty. I'm still wondering what it could be used for down the road if I went out of my way to use that calculus knowledge for something that may even be non-career related with no knowledge in any of the other sciences.
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by:akromyk4
ID: 26278953
How useful is it in 3d programming with no knowledge of the other sciences? Is it still possible to apply it for something like a 3d interface with no knowledge of physics?
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by:Infinity08
ID: 26278964
>> How useful is it in 3d programming

For calculating normals to a surface eg. (used for light, bump mapping, etc.).

But you can get by without knowledge of calculus for most things (either use an existing implementation, or implement an existing formula, or ...).


I'd ask myself a different question : "am I interested in learning calculus ?" If yes, then go for it. If no, then I recommend learning something that does interest you ;)
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by:akromyk4
ID: 26278998
I guess I don't know if I'm interested. I don't know enough about its applications and how it could be useful for me.
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by:Infinity08
ID: 26279255
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 26279279
Calculus is the foundation for some much more interesting stuff such as Fourier Transforms: converting between the time and frequency domains.   Ok these things can be looked up in tables, but having the basics under your belt helps with determining whether an answer is realistic or not.
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 26279296
The wikipedia article on Fourier Transforms is much more impenetrable than Infinity's one for calculus.  I'll stick to these two links:-

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/fourier.jpg
http://members.optushome.com.au/walshjj/transform_pairs.gif
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by:moorhouselondon
ID: 26279310
Here's a fairly readable article:-

http://www.relisoft.com/science/Physics/sound.html
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by:phoffric
ID: 26279892
re: 3d programming
No doubt you would want your 3d objects to move about. So, calculus includes basic physics so that if, for example, you throw a bouncing ball forward, you would understand the basics of how to program it. There are formulas everywhere, but the hard part is understanding how these formulas can be adapted to the 3d model that you are working with. Another hard part in applying the formulas, is trying to debug your program when it seems like the formula is not working - for example, the formula may have constraints that you are not fully appreciative of.

So, going into 3d programming could be a major decision. After learning calculus, a basic course in linear algebra could also be useful, depending upon how deep you wish to pursue this path.
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jgordos earned 2000 total points
ID: 26280567
In general, calculus is all about a few basic ideas....

1) successive approximation... in other words, finding the answer by drilling in until you get a "close enough" answer to the problem...

2) limits ... Does this thing have an answer? or is it infinite?

3) rates of change...

We tend to think of calculus as being married to physics.

That's not true at all.

It's got very real applications in finance, geometry, medicine, engineering and music...

So, the question you need to ask yourself...

In which future job interview do you want to say "sorry, I'm not qualified to do that".

I use limits (well, the concepts anyway) all the time.  Same thing for Integration...

Integration is simply a loop...
Limits help you decide if you can actually find an answer...
Can you find an answer quickly enough to be usable?

I didn't particularly enjoy calculus in college... I was terrible at it, I didn't have the proper background and I  didn't do enough of the homework to actually learn how to do the hard problems... it got in the way of my drinking beer and chasing girls. I could see no reason to take the class, either.  It seemed like a silly requirement because NO ONE does calculus at work, right?

Wrong.

Financial analysts do it all the time.

It's really useful to do curve fitting, etc..

I'm telling you, in my opinion, and based on my experiences, yes, you need calculus.

I also think you need linear algebra, but that's a different conversation.

Hope this helps,
-john


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by:Infinity08
ID: 26280922
Knowledge of mathematics in general tends to give you a different view on the world. It will help you in certain situations where you least expected it (before you learned maths). So I'd say it's always useful to know as much as you can.

But that's me ... You might have an entirely different idea of things. Your goals might lie elsewhere.
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by:CaptainCyril
ID: 26282350
I develop market research software which uses special and customized charts and graphs as well as integrations. I use Calculus, Fourier transformations, approximations, integrals and a lot of stuff.

Even back when I developed simple trajectory games for personal fun, I used physics which is based on calculus.

It's very interesting. However, if you are good in math, there are a lot of websites that can get you brushed up on things in no time if you do not wish to study calculus at univeristy.
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