By Andy Tang, Macquarie University
My interest in mathematics started with doing basic arithmetic operations mentally as a kid. While some of my peers viewed it as a burden, I viewed it as a hobby, it is something I was very proud of. As I moved onto high school, usage of calculators in Maths classes became increasingly frequent, which meant my mental calculation skill became less and less important as I progressed through my teenage years. As I became more knowledgeable of the real world, I realised my calculation skill is easily replaceable by machines. In fact, most of the modern machines would outperform me, being good at doing mental calculations will not get me a job. Luckily, I became interested in the same machines that beat me in mental calculations, I began liking programming.
Programming is the process of designing a set of instructions for the computer to run and the purpose is usually to benefit a human being in a way. A key intersection between computer programming and mathematics is the problem-solving aspect. The end goal in both disciplines is usually find a solution to the proposed problem. While I was becoming increasingly interested in programming in high school, I still had the enthusiasm in mathematics. However, my enthusiasm in mathematics shifted from mental calculations to problem-solving. I became interested in understanding the practical implications behind equations rather than just memorising formulas and shortcuts to do typical questions quickly. I guess this is what led me into doing a degree in Actuarial Studies as it lets me pursue a career that solve practical problems using mathematics and programming.
When I was in high school, I did not think mathematics and computer programming are much alike other than the problem-solving component that both discipline shares. Now that I have almost completed my undergraduate studies, I became aware how software is commonly built to implement mathematical solutions in practice to improve efficiency and accuracy. Currently, mathematics and computer programming are closely integrated in our world and programming is a highly valued skill among many industries especially mathematically related ones. One of the core reasons why I chose to investigate chance of winning in a poker game is because it allows me to practice my programming skills as part of the project.
In the summer project, I decided to program using the R software because it is the most popular statistical computing software and I would like to become more familiar with it. I am glad that I made that choice because I certainly learnt a lot more things that I can do with the R software throughout the summer. It was definitely not a trivial task to code a program to simulate poker games, but the struggles I faced is just part of the learning process. The satisfaction I gained from completing the final product cannot be quantified. I plan to continue to refine my software to allow for more features in my pastime.
Andy Tang was a recipient of a 2018/19 AMSI Vacation Research Scholarship.