Math intensity of different fields within Computer Science

I found a website that ranks about 150 schools, with regards to their Computer Science departments. The rankings change, depending on which discipline one is interested in. Those of you following my other post will know that we can strike from the list whichever ones require the most math. You will see that an individual focus within a discipline can be removed or the category can be removed altogether. Here is the list:

|All Areas [off | on]|
|AI [off | on]|
|► Artificial intelligence||
|► Computer vision||
|► Machine learning & data mining||
|► Natural language processing||
|► The Web & information retrieval||
|Systems [off | on]|
|► Computer architecture||
|► Computer networks||
|► Computer security||
|► Databases||
|► Design automation||
|► Embedded & real-time systems||
|► High-performance computing||
|► Mobile computing||
|► Measurement & perf. analysis||
|► Operating systems||
|► Programming languages||
|► Software engineering||
|Theory [off | on]|
|► Algorithms & complexity||
|► Cryptography||
|► Logic & verification||
|Interdisciplinary Areas [off | on]|
|► Comp. bio & bioinformatics||
|► Computer graphics||
|► Economics & computation||
|► Human-computer interaction||
|► Robotics||
|► Visualization||

I don’t know which ones he will be most interested in (and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either), but I know it won’t be one of the more math-y ones.

Thanks so very much

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I LOVE this so much! Thank you. The mathy thing is a big issue here too with my son (did not take calculus in HS). As far as what my son is most interested in, I don’t think he knows. In fact, he casually mentioned “oh I might want to switch to computer engineering”. Sigh. I need to explain that’s more math. This will really help, although I think I’ve overloading him with information. My son might be like a lot of seniors suffering from a bad case of senioritis in the middle of pandemic sitting home since March last year and feel “meh” about everything. The applying for schools was fun, the acceptances were fun, but the hard decisions are scary.

I think the post is missing the link to the site? Thanks.

crud. how to I add a link? I see the little paperclip and a box pops up. I then tried to copy and paste the address in there and it wouldn’t let me.

Just a note that at many schools, there is a common CS curriculum and then tracks for the specialities listed above. I still think there is going to be no avoiding at least a couple of math courses.

Any mainstream CS curriculum (different colleges may cover these subjects in different depths and rigor as part of their required curricula) would include the following math requirements:

  1. Linear algebra
  2. Discrete math
  3. Probabilities and statistics

Some required CS courses (theory courses on computability/complexity/decidability, etc. and algorithm courses) are fundamentally math courses in disguise.

Of the tracks you listed (AI, Systems, Theory, and other miscellaneous fields), AI and theory tracks are the most math intensive. Systems track and HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) track are the least math intensive.

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No worries. I just googled it and found a site which looks just like what you cut and pasted from :slight_smile: Thanks again!

The format tells me it’s probably CSRanking -

At the undergrad level, the difference in these is most likely going to be in the technical electives you choose - if labeled at all, if might be a “concentration” or “track”. The will all have the fundamental math course of a CS major.

Of these, AI would probably have the strongest math bias in the electives.

Not sure about other specializations, but anyone interested in AI/ML should love math.

Also, CS theory is basically a kind of math, and cryptography is based on algebra and number theory.

Generally speaking, computer science is likely the most math-y major, other than math itself and physics.


Are you familiar with Comp Sci programs that are not in colleges of engineering and, if so, do you still feel the same way? I realize we aren’t talking about compared with a major in liberal arts, but I’m wondering what your definition of “math heavy” is? I know you posted in my other thread titled “safety/match/reach.” In following some of the replies I got therein, I’m discovering that there are schools where you basically need a year of Calculus and one more math class beyond that to fulfill the major and that you have to get anywhere between a 2.0-3.0 in all the requirements for the major. My son won’t love that but, I think he could manage a C- in 3 semesters of math, if need be. Where it might get in his way more would be if these are weed-out courses for getting admitted to the major. In this last scenario, I’m being given the impression that avoiding large schools might avert this danger. I’m wondering what your take is on this more specific elaboration?

go to the other thread that I started named “Safety/match/reach.” I’m getting WAY more comprehensive advice on the topic than I am in this one. There seems to be a lot to take into consideration when deciding which school you want to go to, if you truly want t go into Engineering. It sounds like the weed-out process can be pretty brutal, especially at large schools.

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Yes, I’m. My view is that the CS programs that don’t require decent amount of math aren’t worth pursuing. If your son only wants to be a programmer, he doesn’t even need to major in CS (or even go to colllege at all). Most regular programmers never need or use calculus, let alone fancier math. To major in CS is to equip oneself with tools that can help solve more difficult problems in CS and other fields. For that, he’ll need math.

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What are your thoughts on an information science type degree? This seems to be a comp sci/business hybrid. Some schools offer as a business degree, others as a science degree and some schools offer majors like this in sci dept and business school. It’s definitely less mathy. However, I’m wondering the value of a degree like this. My S21 is comp sci major (for the Fall) but we’re considering options. The math has me nervous. Thank you.

The information I’m getting from others is that much of information science is either oriented towards business and/or roles that are just going to get replaced by computers in the not too distant future.

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Thank you. Good to know!