When I was in school I hated math. Everything beyond basic algebra and geometr...
When I was in school I hated math. Everything beyond basic algebra and geometry was just painfully boring and stupid. I never saw the value of learning meaningless formulas out of context just because some genius decided to put them in the curriculum. At the same time, I couldn’t just accept things as a given without understanding what they actually meant. “Why do I need to learn how to calculate the zero of a function? What the hell even *is* a function?!” Turns out I’m not the only one with this opinion. The beautifully written “A Mathematician’s Lament” by Paul Lockhart sums up pretty much everything that is wrong with the way math is taught today. If you’re short on time there is also a TL/DR version at businessinsider but I really recommend you read the whole thing (apparently there’s also a whole book that was derived from the essay but I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet).
Essentially our education system has found the perfect point of balance to make math as boring and meaningless as humanly possible. Neither do we teach it as the beautiful and playful art form that Lockhart describes, nor do we show any actual uses for the concepts we teach or even worse, simply throw formulas and equations at the pupils without giving any more explanation. Admittedly, showing practical uses is rather hard when you’re dealing with a bunch of kids that have no idea where they want to go in life but that doesn’t make the argument less valid. Ultimately, what our current math education results in is a large portion of the population ingrained with a fundamental hatred for math.
This is rather unfortunate since at the moment we’re lacking good programmers and to be a good programmer you need to be good at math, or at least that’s still the common perception. And it makes sense. After all, programming has been invented by mathematicians to solve difficult mathematical problems. All the basic concepts of computer science are fundamentally derived from math. Leibnitz invented the binary number system that all modern computers are based on. Ada Lovelace, considered to be the world’s first programmer was a mathematician that used algorithms to compute the Bernoulli numbers. Later, Turing used a computer to break the German’s enigma code purely based on mathematical principles. Hell, even if you try to get a degree in Computer Science these days you’re basically signing up for a math degree with a few programming courses on the side.
And that’s exactly where the problem with this perception lies. Computer Science is *NOT* programming! (Which incidentally is also the reason why I’m highly sceptical about people with CS degrees that apply for programming positions. A large portion of them can’t code their way out of a paper bag because that’s not what they’ve been taught). The truth is, while all the things computers do are grounded in mathematics, a normal programmer will hardly ever need to use, let alone understand this type of low level math to be successful. Mind you, I’m not saying that CS is not useful – quite the contrary. We’d still be in the computing Stone Age if it wasn’t for great computer scientists like Knuth or Dijkstra. It has just got very little to do with modern day software development which some argue is actually a lot closer related to language than to math.
Unfortunately, games programming is one of the relatively few areas in software development that still requires programmers to understand and implement quite a lot of mathematical concepts. Graph theory for scene graphs, Euclidean Vectors for virtually everything, geometry, physics calculations, rasterization, interpolation and the list just goes on and on and on. I actually wish someone had told me about all the cool applications of those boring mathematical concepts 20 years ago when I was still in school. Differential Calculus becomes so much more fun when you’re using it to create explosions!
But not all is lost. Thankfully, math is a lot easier to learn if you can already code. One of the beautiful side effects of programming is that it not only teaches you a way of thinking that makes math a lot less abstract (I had a true “Eureka”-moment when I realized that the summation symbol was basically mathematical shorthand for a while loop), it gives you a goal to strive towards. You no longer learn some abstract functions for the sake of learning them, you do it because it will allow you to understand how to calculate a missile trajectory or make explosions or ocean waves. And to close the loop to Lockhart’s essay, it works the other way around as well. You suddenly have a set of tools that you can play around with and explore to create so many other weird and wonderful things that you can use in your games.
So do you need to be good at math to become a programmer? In my opinion you don’t. Very few areas of general software development require a lot of math and as Jeff Atwood points out if you’re in those situations, you’ll know it. Even if you want to become a games programmer, you don’t need to *be* good at math at the start. I hardly care about math grades when I’m hiring people for the reasons stated above. I do however expect programmers to be able to learn whatever they need when they need it. That’s not to say that being good at the type of math you’ll be using won’t help. I sure wish I had paid more attention at school so I wouldn’t have to relearn everything now. But if you’re looking to get into the games industry but are worried because you couldn’t grok high school algebra, don’t be (just yet). After all, if you want to be a good coder, what you really need is to be smart and get things done!
Incandescence has gone live today, October 16th, across iOS, Android and Windows Phon...
Incandescence has gone live today, October 16th, across iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8. It’s a small game and more of an experiment than anything else. The game has been difficult to classify in terms of genre. It’s a rhythm game… sort of. It basically takes finger drumming as a habit, and twists it into a game. Rather than trying to describe it, you’re best taking a look at the gameplay in this short trailer video.
It’s a simple game; there are no upgrades, but as the score gets higher, the music will build up and the visuals will get more intense and trippy. As we built the game, we began to realise that the simple gameplay quickly becomes a test of physical stamina in the arm, and how long you last can be dependent on how sore your arm gets. If you’re an habitual finger drummer, then check out Incandescence for free on the following:
Today the sixth annual 30 under 30 list from Develop magazine went live. We’re very p...
Today the sixth annual 30 under 30 list from Develop magazine went live. We’re very proud to see the appearance of our very own CTO and founding partner, Alex Zeitler!
On the 27th November 2013 Develop Magazine published a list of the 100 ...
On the 27th November 2013 Develop Magazine published a list of the 100 most promising start-up companies in Europe. Needless to say we’re very proud to be included. It’s been one hell of a roller coaster ride since we began in 2011…
We survived the first year, were profitable in our second and have now doubled our staff from 4 to 8. We’re on a busy run up to Christmas this year, and are looking for a strong start to 2014!
CANCER RESEARCH UK APPOINTS GUERILLA TEA TO BUILD WORLD-FIRST MOBILE PHONE GAM...
CANCER RESEARCH UK APPOINTS GUERILLA TEA TO BUILD WORLD-FIRST MOBILE PHONE GAME TO SEEK CANCER CURES
CANCER RESEARCH UK has hired games and software development agency Guerilla Tea to build the charity’s first mobile phone game to pinpoint new genetic causes of cancer – accelerating potential new cures.
The agency will work closely with Cancer Research UK’s scientists to develop a game, working title GeneGame, that anyone with a smart phone and five minutes to spare can play to analyse Cancer Research UK’s gene data. The game will launch in the UK later this year.
Dundee-based Guerilla Tea creates mobile, handheld and online games. It was appointed by Cancer Research UK with help from games expert Channel 4’s games commissioner, Colin Macdonald. Cancer Research UK selected Guerilla Tea because it most closely fulfilled the brief to develop a game format that is both fun to play but simultaneously feeds highly accurate analysis of variations in gene data to Cancer Research UK’s scientists.
Guerilla Tea will consolidate the expertise and formats generated at Cancer Research UK’s GameJam event in March 2013. The event brought together the charity’s world-leading scientists alongside over fifty ‘hackers’ – computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists from Amazon Web Services, Facebook, Google and games technology academics from City University London and Omnisoft.
Amy Carton, citizen science lead for Cancer Research UK, said: “We were very impressed by the initial format produced by Guerilla Tea and we’re excited about seeing the final result.
“We’re right at the start of a world-first initiative that will result in a game that we hope hundreds of thousands of people across the globe will want to play over and over again and, at the same time, generate robust scientific data analysis.
“Combining complicated cancer research data and gaming technology in this way has never been done before and it’s certainly no mean feat but we’re working with the best scientific and technology brains in the business, we’re ready for the challenge and believe the results will have global impact and speed up research.”
Mark Hastings, CEO of Guerilla Tea, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have been selected by Cancer Research UK for this project. We’ve always believed games technology has the potential to provide huge benefits to other sectors and this project will be a wonderful example of that. We’re very excited to get started and through our work look forward to helping speed up discoveries that one day might lead to new cancer treatments.”
Cancer Research UK’s scientists are investigating new ways to treat patients in a more targeted way based on their genetic fingerprint – but this research produces terabytes upon petabytes of data requiring analysis. Advances in technology help our scientists identify new causes and drivers of cancer, but much of the data must be analysed by the human eye rather than machines – which can take years.
‘GeneGame’ is the charity’s second project set up to harness the power of the public to help analyse these colossal amounts of data, with the aim to drastically speed up research.
The first initiative, Cell SliderTM, launched in October 2012 and allows the public to classify archived breast cancer samples, helping Cancer Research UK scientists to better understand breast cancer risk and response to treatment.
Dr Joanna Reynolds, director of science information, Cancer Research UK, said “Over 200,000 people have already visited our CellSlider site, from over 100 countries, making more than 1.6 million classifications. In just three months, citizen scientists had analysed data that would typically take our scientists 18 months to do and early indications of the accuracy are promising. With GeneGame we are being bolder, braver and bigger and we hope that by the end of the year we’ll have a game that not only is fun to play but will play a crucial role in developing new cancer cures sooner – ultimately saving lives.”
For media enquiries please contact Emma Rigby on 020 3469 8300 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.
Notes to Editors:
About Guerilla Tea
Founded in 2011 by Mark Hastings, Matthew Zanetti, Charlie Czerkawski and Alex Zeitler, Guerilla Tea is an award winning Dundee based Games and Software Development Company. Focusing primarily on web and mobile platforms Guerilla Tea develops products for the global market.
The Guerilla Tea studio is built around a dedicated in-house team of highly skilled dynamic developers that draws upon the best local talent to bolster internal resources when necessary. Utilising the highest level of development standards Guerilla Tea mixes creativity, innovation and passion and strives to offer risk-free development solutions across multiple platforms covering hundreds of handsets and multiple languages.
About Cancer Research UK
Best Newcomer – 3rd Place We attended the ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards 2013, ...
We attended the ScotlandIS Digital Technology Awards 2013, having been shortlisted in the Best Newcomer category. It was a terrific night at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. In the end we finished in 3rd place behind some insanely tough competition. We’re at the start of a very long journey!