A Programmer’s Introduction to Mathematics by Jeremy Kun
A Menlo Innovations Book Review by Daniel Roman, Software Developer
To say that Kun introduces a reader to some fundamentals of math is a slight mischaracterization. The title implies the gentle introduction of acquaintances at a garden party. The reality is closer to the handshake between boxers about to go twelve rounds. Mischaracterization aside, the book is a fascinating read. Kun covers a variety of foundational math topics ranging from set theory, graph theory, polynomials, and linear algebra. Covering the catalog of concepts that he does, Kun provides a brief “cultural” chapter between each of the denser technical ones. No doubt he is aware of his reader’s need to take a breather between chapters so they don’t become totally dispirited. If you decide to pick up this book you’ll quickly realize the necessity of note-taking; be prepared.
Over the course of the book, one begins to see why math and programming are so often associated with each other. Mathematics and programming both attempt to model real-world concepts using language. While the book isn’t immediately applicable to software development it does highlight some interesting concepts that are relevant not only to programmers but those involved in the software development life-cycle. Mathematicians and software builders both wrestle with the challenge of articulating real-world interactions in terms of an abstract language. So while most software consultants may not directly benefit from exposure to multivariable calculus they certainly benefit from the mental exercise of ingesting and digesting multivariable calculus.
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