Does Computer Science Require Math? (2024)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Earning your degree in computer science typically requires taking a number of math courses. Learn more about the kinds of math you can expect, and what to do if the subject hasn't always been your strong suit.

Does Computer Science Require Math? (1)

Computer science operates on the language of math. That means earning your bachelor’s degree in computer science will likely require taking several math courses. Of course, the number and kinds of classes will depend on your program.

At its core, math is about verifying whether certain logical statements are true. As a computer science student, you will build on that foundation with a series of math classes to sharpen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills while learning to work with related math such as data sets. In this article, we’ll go over the main math courses you can expect to take as a computer science major, and whether you should study computer science if math isn’t your strong suit.

What kinds of math courses do computer science majors take?

Each computer science degree program has different mathematics requirements. You may be expected to take some of the following branches of math. You may also be expected to advance your knowledge of certain mathematical concepts over several semesters: For example, you may need to take Calculus I, followed by Calculus II and Calculus III.

Generally, majoring in computer science requires most of the following:


Calculus refers to the study of change within a system, especially concerning functions and sequences. Calculus sets up a framework to model these changes and predict various outcomes and is an excellent math for solving problems.

Linear algebra

Linear algebra is the study of vectors (a list of numbers or functions) and matrices (or a matrix of numbers). It's particularly helpful when organizing large data sets into more concise expressions and modeling the physical world.

Boolean algebra

Boolean algebra is a branch of algebra wherein the values of the variables are either true or false. These values are denoted as 1 and 0. In contrast, the values of variables in elementary algebra are numbers.

Statistics and probability

Statistics is the study of verifiable data with the aim of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting it. Probability is the language used to discuss uncertainty, which plays a big role in statistics because the meaning behind data—or its outcome—is often unclear at first.

Discrete math

While many other branches of mathematics, such as algebra, are considered continuous because they involve formulas that solve for endless possibilities, discrete mathematics is more interested in integers with clear, set values. It’s an excellent math for problem-solving. In fact, discrete mathematics is often considered the “mathematical language” of computer science.

Differential equations

Similar to probability as the language through which uncertainty is understood, differential equations are the language that can help clarify how things change. These equations can model natural phenomena and show how they work.

Because each computer science degree program can be so different, it’s a good idea to review the course requirements for the schools you’re interested in attending—or the major you’re considering declaring.

Learn more: Is Computer Science Hard?

Should you study computer science if you’re bad at math?

Math can be a daunting subject for many students. But there’s a difference between thinking you’re bad at math and not enjoying math. If you do not like math, then computer science may not be the best major for you. If you find math challenging, however, you can still major in computer science.

If you’ve struggled with math to some extent, it’s worth speaking with a college advisor about the requirements you’ll face as a computer science major. There are also ways you can work to improve your abilities, including:

  • Peer study groups: Form or join a study group with your classmates to meet regularly to review weekly lessons and study for tests.

  • Office hours: Get more personalized time with your faculty members by attending their office hours. These sessions can be an excellent way to ask questions and clarify lessons you don’t fully understand.

  • Peer tutoring: Given the challenging concepts certain math classes may entail, math departments may offer peer tutoring that is often included in tuition.

  • Tutoring: Hire a private tutor—in-person or online—to help you work through more challenging concepts.

  • Independent learning: Supplement your classroom learning by turning to materials like YouTube lectures, explanatory articles, or even projects that put what you’re learning into practice.

If you’re unsure about the math requirements involved in a computer science program, you can also consider a different but related option, such as information technology (IT), informatics, or game design, which may still require math but not to the same extent.

That being said, being told you’re bad at math is not the same thing as actually being bad at math. Sometimes it can take more time to learn complex concepts. Enroll in Learning How to Learn on Coursera to review key learning techniques that can help you better approach more difficult math courses.

It’s worth noting that not all computer science jobs require math to the same extent. For instance, a website developer or programmer will need to know a programming language. In contrast, someone who works in machine learning will have difficulty advancing without a higher-level understanding of math. Before enrolling in a computer science degree program, you may want to think about your career aspirations and what major will help you achieve them.

Get started

Take an online computer science course from a leading university on Coursera and see if this major is suitable for you. For example, you can earn your Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of London. You can focus on one of several areas: machine learning, artificial intelligence, game design, user experience, and more.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Does Computer Science Require Math? (2024)


Does Computer Science Require Math? ›

A Straight Answer. One of the questions we hear often from applicants at BloomTech is “Does computer science require math?” or “Does coding involve math?” The straight answer is yes—but not as much as you might think. You don't need to be good at advanced math to become a good software developer.

Does computer science require a lot of math? ›

Because math is a foundational part of computer systems, every programmer and computer scientist needs to have basic mathematical knowledge. The type and level of math you need depends on what areas of computer science you want to work in. Some computer science career tracks require only minimal mathematical knowledge.

Can you major in computer science if you're bad at math? ›

If you do not like math, then computer science may not be the best major for you. If you find math challenging, however, you can still major in computer science. If you've struggled with math to some extent, it's worth speaking with a college advisor about the requirements you'll face as a computer science major.

Can I do computer science if I don't like math? ›

If you plan to earn a computer science degree to work in computer programming, artificial intelligence, or machine learning, you need aptitude in discrete mathematics and linear algebra.

Do I need pure math for computer science? ›

Both pure math and statistics are important topics to study in order to understand concepts such as algorithms, data structures, and machine learning, which are necessary for computer science.

Why is CS so math heavy? ›

Why Does Computer Science Require So Much Math? Computer scientists have to be fluent in the language of computers, and that language is math. Success in this field requires critical thought, abstract reasoning, and logic—all of which are mathematical ways of thinking.

Is computer science math hard? ›

If math isn't your favorite subject, you'll be relieved to hear that many roles in computer science rarely employ advanced math on a daily basis. However, you will need to deal with a fair amount of advanced math during your computer science studies, including calculus, algebra, discrete mathematics, and statistics.

Can I be a programmer if I'm bad at math? ›

It's absolutely not a barrier to becoming a web developer.” According to Web Developer Charlotte O'Hara, it's not only easy to learn to code without having a background in math, but outside of some routine arithmetic, most web development projects don't rely heavily on math at all.

Is computer science the hardest college major? ›

As you can imagine, learning the language of a computer can be very difficult, especially if you're unfamiliar with it. There are different coding languages to learn and you must have strong problem-solving skills which is why computer science is one of e hardest majors in college to choose.

How hard is computer science? ›

Learning the discipline of Computer Science is a hard and difficult endeavor for most students. However, if you are willing to invest the time and learn serious time management skills, most students can successfully learn the discipline and pursue successful careers in Computer Science fields.

What computer majors do not require math? ›

Systems Administration, Network Administration, Database Administration. Those are easy choices to be in tech, constantly learning, make decent money, and not have to know any math. And you can either stay a tech or move into management. But in management you might need to know some basic finance math.

Does cybersecurity require math? ›

Does cybersecurity involve math? Computing careers, including those in cybersecurity, generally require a foundational knowledge of mathematics. For example, any time you run penetration tests to get ahead of hackers or compile data reports to identify threats, your system is crunching numbers.

Does computer science have less math than computer engineering? ›

Computer Science is offered by the College of Science as opposed to the other two, and so it involves more math courses and is more theoretical than the engineering programs. This means no courses on circuits, but more on programming and the theory behind it. This means a lot more math.

How much math is required for computer science? ›

Here in web dev, we don't use that much advanced math. Going the CS route might get you a bit more math. I would expect at least a little discrete math and linear algebra, maybe some statistics/probability. Some places might go through the basics of calculus.

What kind of math is used in computer science? ›

Discrete mathematics: This mathematical discipline is the backbone of Computer Science. Discrete mathematics studies mathematical structures. Its nature is distinct and separable, covering logic, probability, combinatorics, trees, set theory, algorithms, and graphs.

Do all computer science jobs require math? ›

Mathematics is the backbone of computer science, essential for innovation and problem-solving in technology. While the depth of math knowledge required varies by tech role, a foundational understanding is crucial for all computer scientists.

Is computer science that hard? ›

Learning the discipline of Computer Science is a hard and difficult endeavor for most students. However, if you are willing to invest the time and learn serious time management skills, most students can successfully learn the discipline and pursue successful careers in Computer Science fields.

Can I do computer science without a level maths? ›

Specific entry requirements vary considerably, depending on the focus of the course. For example, a very theoretical course may require A level Mathematics, whereas Business IT programmes would probably not ask for any science background beyond GCSE. Few courses specify A level Computing or equivalent.

Is computer science stressful? ›

Earning a computer science degree has been known to entail a more intense workload than you might experience with other majors because there are many foundational concepts about computer software, hardware, and theory to learn. Part of that learning may involve a lot of practice, typically completed on your own time.

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