My Innumeracy

Mathematics is intertwined with software testing in many ways. (Should I say numerous ways and turn the number of ways into a tester’s challenge? Who could build the largest number of connections? Could we then identify references for learning related math?)

But I don’t like math.

If you can’t draw a connection between testing and math, I offer this list as a start: estimating, metrics, sample sets of data (How many should we test? How many more should we test if we find an error?), statistical analysis of performance test results, regular expressions, Poisson distributions, Pareto analysis, combinatorial analysis, equivalence classes. I will stop here that’s about 9.

Over time I’ll consider these for additional posts. I’d also be grateful to mathematically competent testers to share stories that point out math in action especially around these topics.

So why don’t I like math? I have a scarring grade school memory but I’ll bypass the episode. What’s more important is where my relationship is with math today. And what math has to do with software testing.

As I move into areas of software testing requiring a deeper understanding of mathematics (specifically statistical analysis), my past becomes a handicap. The more I want to learn the more I can’t afford to leave this door slammed shut.

John Allen Paulos’ book, Innumeracy has me realizing ways my math illiteracy has stunted my growth. I’ve been finding myself in the math and philosophy sections of bookstores lately and the more I read, the less puzzled I am by numerous connections. My background reading helps my foreground work.

Ok so the WIIFM. Questions to consider: What is your relationship with math and numbers? Are you mathematically illiterate? If you’re mathematically illerate are you willing to re-school yourself?Can you use numerical information gathered from test results to prove and illustrate your experience with the product you’re testing? Do you have a clear grasp of the topics listed above?

For anyone who’s read Innumeracy they’ll understand my humor in the title of this piece. If you haven’t read Innumeracy and you have a questionable relationship with math, this is great book.

As a point of interest, Paulos directly references and recognizes software testing in this book, but maybe that was just an interesting coincidence?

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