Minimizing math in Comp Sci

Hello to everyone who has followed me here from my other thread. I’ve learned a LOT from everyone and it has helped me hone down my list of questions from the broader ones I posed in my other post. That said, I’m still trying to figure out a way for my son to be a successful Comp Sci major (and Computer Scientist), with the least math possible. I’ve been told everything from that if he doesn’t like math, he shouldn’t even bother with CS to he just needs to put his head to the grindstone (or whatever that saying is). Nobody is saying it is not important. I understand this, but I would like to run a scenario by you readers. The example below is from the University of Delaware. They offer a BA and a BS, both through their College of Engineering.

Both degrees require:

Intro to Comp Sc 1 and 2
Intro to Systems Programming
Data Structures
Machine Organization and Assembly Language
Intro to Software Engineering
Discrete Math
Calc 1

The BS then goes on to require:
Intro to Engineering
Intro to Algorithms
Operating Systems
Parallel Computing
Automata Theory
Logic for programming OR Linear Algebra
Calc 2
Stats OR Probability
Calc 3 recommended

The BA, however, only requires 15 additional credits in Computer Science courses (comes out to 5 semesters at U Del) of ones choice, as long as they are 300 level or above. (Although, the ones listed as upper core for the BS are mostly 200 level courses, so I’d imagine he would need a couple of those as prerequisites for whatever 300-levels he opts for).

So, say he is interested in an subcategory of Computer Science that is less math heavy; I’ve done some research and I’m told a few might be, for example, Systems and Networks, Cybersecurity, Web and Mobile Engineering. Why not do the BA, dodge the extra math and more math-y comp sci core classes required for the BS and skip straight to the subcategory he likes with those 15 (or more) credits? If he chooses a sub-category that has prerequisites that require a little more math than he’d prefer, he can decide it then if it’s worth it to him.

The BA doesn’t actually have a ton more breadth requirements, leaving much elective space for CS courses and the general consensus seems to be that employers don’t care if you have a BA or BS or whether the degree is in the school of Engineering or not.

I am aware that available class space might favor the BS students, but I’m setting that aside for now. I’m also aware that those of you familiar with my son’s high school math grades are going to think he’s not getting into U Del Engineering anyway, but let’s put that aside right now too. Lastly, I know a BA isn’t what you want for going to grad school, but I’m hoping a boot camp could take care of that if and when the time comes.

Has he taken calculus in HS and if so- how did he do?

I don’t think the problem is choosing a BA vs. a BS. I think the problem is that CS-- a science- like all of the sciences, uses math as its primary “language”. And not liking math- or avoiding math- or taking as little math as possible- is going to be a tough slog. I’m not a computer scientist- but I’ve hired many of them in my career.

Why not find something in the business school in the data field- or even something like supply chain? These are math enabled, but not heavy on the kind of theory that that a BA in CS is going to be filled with?

If your son truly doesn’t like math, I don’t see applying to ANY engineering programs as good use of his talents. Not a knock on him-- just trying to figure out what someone trying to minimize math in college would be looking at CS…

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He IS interested in the fields of Computer Science that don’t require a lot of math. I know there is going to be a degree of overlap, but you don’t have to be a whiz at physics to be a biologist. My husband is an Enterprise Architect and doesn’t use a lick of math. I’m a veterinarian, for which I had to take a LOT of undergrad science courses that I hated and have zero to do with what I do now. I’m just saying that if he’s looking at a goal (a job in a computer science discipline that doesn’t require math) that can be achieved without having to jump through as many hoops, why not avoid them? I know there are people who like those hoops or who are going into aspects of computer science that necessitate those hoops, but I’m hoping there is a place for someone who isn’t either of these.

I have a friend who is a psychiatrist. Not only did he have to take the math that’s required to get into med school, he had to learn how to deliver a baby, suture all sorts of horrifying injuries, and a few thousand random anatomical facts that have no bearing on his practice. But in order to become a board certified psychiatrist- at least in this country- first you have to become a physician, period full stop.

I’m just suggesting that the process of studying CS as it is taught in an engineering program is akin to my friend participating in his first amputation. And perhaps there’s an easier way around the mountain for your son if he dislikes math. If he’s fine with it, and is just comparing programs to find the ones where the math seems less onerous, than a BA seems like a good option. But the theoretical underpinnings of CS don’t change just because you’re in a math-lite program.

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Although the BA program at Delaware may not have too many explicitly math courses (discrete math being the most important one for CS majors), mathematical concepts (e.g. boolean logic) are embedded in CS, and some upper level CS courses are basically like math courses or are math-heavy (e.g. algorithms (which CS majors really should know the content of), theory, cryptography).

However, it is possible that some people who are not too interested in “continuous” math like precalculus and calculus may find discrete math and the math embedded in CS to be more interesting to them.

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The answer is yes. Having a BA or a BS in computer science really doesn’t make a difference. In fact most graduates end up in corporate IT jobs and spend an entire career never looking at a math problem. That’s what spawned IT degrees. Employers are most interested in someone who can code and can learn quickly. In fact, an IT degree might be worth considering, since it focuses more on the business side of tech…a skill that seems to be lacking in many graduates. Tech is absurdly diverse. If he comes out proficient in a coding language and can learn quickly, he’ll land a job.

From what I have seen having a BS or BA doesn’t matter too much unless you are trying to get into elite CS jobs. For most they look at the degree (is there one), the grades, and then most importantly skills and experience and maybe even recommendations. Is there a program through the BA to get some internships? Those can be very helpful!

By the way, I totally relate to your veterinarian analogy. My son is in his first year of vet school and hates math! He is at the top of his class and no issue with only having college algebra in his undergrad (he had calculus 1 in high school and hated it). I’m a math and engineering dual major so I had some trouble relating!

I promise I’m not actually trying to be snarky with this question, but why would someone who doesn’t like math want to major in computer science?

He IS interested in the fields of Computer Science that don’t require a lot of math.

This doesn’t really exist (but remember, here, that math is not just about manipulating numbers/doing numerical calculations; it is a way of thinking). Computational science is founded on math. Math is the core precipitating element of the field of computer science. It’s even in the name: it’s the science of computation. Biology is not a good comparison because biology wasn’t borne out of physics the way computer science was borne out of math.

Not only would someone not interested in math not enjoy the major, they probably also wouldn’t enjoy the actual jobs that require a degree in computer science. I cannot imagine a CS major being successful skipping the calculus sequence, for example. Hell, I majored in a quantitative social science and even I took calc II, linear algebra, and prob&stats. Linear algebra, statistics/probability - those things are, likewise, foundational. I couldn’t imagine working with a software developer who didn’t understand basic statistics and probability. Are they going to be doing proofs and regressions on the job? No. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t using the concepts and knowledge from those classes in their jobs. I use the concepts from statistics and probability every day in my job even when I’m not running a t-test or whatever.

Boot camps are intended to help people get jobs (and it’s dubious they even do much of that); they are definitely not meant to fill in foundational, theoretical knowledge someone needs to get a graduate degree in the field. I don’t think a graduate program would look kindly on a CS major missing the calculus sequence who went to a boot camp?

So my question back to you is - why are you (and/or he) trying to find less math-heavy ways for him to major in a field literally founded on top of math, rather than selecting a different major that is a better fit for him? What does he want to do for his career?

My husband is an Enterprise Architect and doesn’t use a lick of math.

I find this very difficult to believe (remember that math is not just about manipulating numbers), but that aside, IT is different from computer science. Is your son simply interested in a computer-related job or field? Because IT or informatics may be more suited to his interests.

ETA: It occurs to me that what me might be interested in are tech careers that maybe don’t require heavy knowledge of computer science and math. I think there are a lot of such careers: IT being one of them; my field (UX design & research) being another; program management being a third. There are hundreds of people who come together to make a tech company work, and only some of them are software developers and engineers.