Training the mind


Very often we hear that most of our graduates passing out of colleges are not employable. Most of the IT industry titans repeatedly ask the academia to improve the employability of our technical graduates. Surely, there are reasons and remedies for this anomalous situation.

Recently there was a news item which said that Google is planning to induct high quality mathematics graduates for designing their search algorithms. Significantly, Google did not mention computer graduates but specifically asked for mathematicians. What does this mean?

There are numerous computer training institutes, both software and hardware. The software institutes teach numerous programming languages which can be used to write computer programmes. Almost all the syllabi of science / commerce streams on undergraduate / graduate / postgraduate levels of education have only one computer language in their curriculum. There are numerous highly useful and highly powerful computer languages like C, C++, C#, Java etc. Almost all the private software institutes teach how to write programmes in these languages by teaching only the syntax of the language in detail.

Now what is syntax? Syntax is defined as rules to follow in a language to construct sentences or in simple terms, the grammar. This is akin to what the mother teaches her children i.e., to talk properly by joining the words in a particular order. She teaches language and also oral skills. She corrects the language.

Similarly, private computer institutes teach students the syntax of the language which can be used to write programmes for various applications. They award certificates and grades based on an exam, given to test the student’s ability to use the syntax to write the programmes. It helps to test only the knowledge of syntax.
The whole course takes one or two months during which the institutes and the students claim that they know the language thoroughly and they can write programmes using the computer language. We see that most of these certificates reflect very high scores or grades, proving that the student is very good at using syntax.

Then why is it that these ‘high scoring’ students are not employable in the IT industry?
Language is only a medium to express the thoughts. Sentences are framed where there is a database of words in the mind. But the analytical thinking, that is, logical thoughts will have to originate through a thinking process in the mind. These thoughts cannot be taught in a short period and for this the mind has to be trained to think logically and analytically over a period of time.

Thinking logically
Training the mind to think logically can only be done by learning mathematics. This is a subject of numbers and principles which train the mind to think logically. Algebra, geometry and calculus are fantastic methods to train the mind to visualise numbers and shapes and to arrange a problem correctly for taking correct, timely action to solve the problem. This also helps to solve the problem in correct and orderly steps. The subject of maths is for the mind to train itself to walk, run, think and convert thoughts into proper steps towards solving a problem.

Logic and mathematics, starting with arithmetic, show you how to follow steps one at a time and one after another, for arriving at results or conclusions. Learning that an error in one step makes all the following subsequent steps and results or conclusions wrong is a realisation towards taking a cautious approach for problem-solving ability.

Mathematics is a rule and pattern-based discipline and it shows through experience and trial and error methods, how to solve problems first by following given methods and later, if needed, by combining and exploring different methods. Algebra at full strength involves a thought-based derivation of formulae and gives explanations as to why and how processes work.

The items and skills in mathematics altogether, cumulatively, help to obtain and describe calculations and assumptions that appear in many disciplines. Mathematics courses are designed for problem-solving skills, and to provide a growing knowledge of ideas and skills.

Various branches in maths like discrete mathematical structures, operations research, numerical methods and data structures directly connect knowledge of the functional aspect in the computers and the device drivers. A thorough knowledge in this subject is very necessary to ensure a faster reasoning of problems and write a code in the language known.

Though the knowledge of a language is important, it will definitely not override the necessity and importance of a strong base in maths and physics.

The knowledge of maths is the thought process and the language is the talking process. This aspect is being overlooked by almost all private computer institutes though the university syllabus gives equal importance to both. But students, unfortunately, give more importance to the subjects teaching language ignoring the subjects teaching the logic. The colleges are helpless when seeing higher score in subjects of language and lower score in subjects of logic (read maths).

So students will have to learn more of maths along with computer languages to be able to excel in the highly competitive field of computer programming.

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