What Is Computer Science? Is Computer Science The Same As Computer Programming? What Is The Difference Between Computer Science And Computer Programming?

Contrary to what you may think, these two subjects are about as different as Latin is to linear algebra.

What Is Computer Science?

It’s math. As a computer science major myself, I can tell you first hand that computer science involves writing very little code — especially at the higher levels. If I had to arbitrarily assign a percentage to “math v. programming”, I would say that computer science is at least 80% math and at most 20% programming.

In computer science you learn about sorting algorithms, finite state machines, turing machines, parsers, lexers, tokenizers, lambda calculus, monads, monoids, functors, lists, maps, maybes, lenses, and futures, to name a few.

It is very common for computer science courses to have a mathematics prerequisite. Algorithms and data structures are heavily reliant on a background in math.

Also contrary to popular opinion, computer science majors are not necessarily good programmers. Granted, they show a higher aptitude towards becoming a good programmer, but they rarely know how to code anything useful coming out of college with a computer science degree.

What Is Computer Programming?

It’s somewhere between a foreign language and formal logic. A word you will hear a lot in programming is “syntax”, which is how a particular programming language structures its logic. This might sound familiar because it’s the same word — not coincidentally — that foreign language classes use to describe the structure of sentences.

Computer programming does not require a highly mathematical background, and much like a foreign language, the only way to become a better programmer is to practice. Most people who start programming are surprised to discover how easy it is to learn and how little math is involved. As a friend once described it to me, “Once it stops looking like The Matrix, it’s actually pretty easy.” In my experience, this change of perception usually takes less than a month.

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