Math for Data Science: The Ultimate Guide for 2023

math for data science

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Math for data science theory and its importance in understanding how algorithms come together is non-debatable. It is not always straightforward and fun, like practising and creating software solutions, so most beginners avoid it. However, to take your data career to the next level, it is essential to be a pro at handling core maths concepts like calculus, algebra and statistics.

Some of these maths concepts are more difficult than others, and the right way to learn them will depend upon your desired occupation in the broader data field and your expertise level. However, if you want to build solutions that will impact business on a large scale, understanding the maths behind your models and algorithms is necessary. In this guide, we will look at the importance of math for data science, the topics that are most important and the best strategies to learn it all!

What is the importance of math for data science?

Students solving a math's problem in front of a blackboards

While maths is an integral part of all technology, you do not need to know how to solve every sum or equation since you will likely be working with powerful machines that can efficiently work through that. However, the machine learning models you set up will require optimisation to solve problems and meet business objectives.

This is where maths for data science comes in, and it helps both students and senior professionals. Math enables you to understand why your algorithms and models behave a certain way and how you can tweak them to get your desired results. So while senior data science experts might need to write new algorithms from scratch and require in-depth knowledge of all essential topics, the learning curve is much easier for beginners and students.

If you are starting in a junior role, you only need to understand the basics of statistics and algebra since you will likely use standard libraries and premade ML models. To learn more about the roles you can excel in with your current maths skillset, check out this detailed guide!

Several tutors and online course instructors downplay the role of a mathematical background when building a technology–related skill set and promote the importance of programming above all. While there is no doubt that practice with programming is the right place for a beginner to start, it is not possible to scale in your career as a data scientist without mathematics.

As a senior data analyst, you might work on research that helps create original machine-learning models for specific business operations. This will all start with understanding the math and basic calculations. As discussed earlier, you can use a computer for basic to advanced linear equations and charts. Still, you must fully understand maths concepts like multivariable calculus, geometry and algebra to make the right decisions.

Hiring managers will likely question your problem-solving and math skills even if you apply for an entry-level data analyst role. Hiring a trained professional who does not understand machine learning algorithms’ core systems and theory is inefficient and cannot modify existing setups with custom ideas.

Which math topics are essential for data scientists?

Some core mathematical concepts important for data scientists include statistics, probability, geometry, linear regression and calculus. Some subfields, like data analytics, are based on more specific concepts like statistics and probability, while others focus more on linear algebraic equations.

When starting as a professional, you should begin by learning statistics since it is much easier to pick up than the other concepts. In the following sections, we will take a look at the most critical math concepts you should ace for an excellent career in big data:


A blackboard with a calculus equation in math for data science

Calculus is not very important in data management, but it is essential to learn its operations to grasp statistics better. Furthermore, since you will work with optimisation algorithms as a professional, you should have a firm grasp of calculus.

These algorithms work through pre-set parameters and arguments to ascertain the best solution for an ML/AI or data analytics problem. Calculus derivatives and gradients are a big part of these systems, and it is essential to understand the topic before you build or dissect any such solution. One of these algorithms is the gradient descent algorithm, which provides better forecasts over time, making it a valuable tool for data analysts to learn. If you wish to dive deeper into concepts like deep learning, consider maintaining an interest in calculus!


A data scientist makes many core business decisions based on raw, structured data. This makes statistics an irreplaceable part of their academic toolkit to be able to understand, visualise and present their data. Since most of these decisions concern future actions and circumstances, it is also essential to have a firm grasp of probability theory. As an in-office professional, your workflow will tie in with senior management several times during product creation, optimisation and research. Understanding the key elements influencing executive decisions is essential, and statistics and forecasts are a big part of the picture.

If you have a good grasp of statistics, you can research better and spot trends and other changes in customer behaviour. Some statistics topics to focus on include cross-validation, probability and logical regression.

Linear Algebra

Most machine learning models, data science programs and artificial intelligence processes have theoretical roots in linear algebra, making it essential to understand this math concept to perform better as a student and a professional. For example, if we look at datasets, most are put across in a matrix, a linear algebra subtopic.

As a general rule of thumb, studying both matrices and vectors is a good idea to develop a strong core knowledge of linear algebra you will need as a professional working with model evaluation or data transformation. Both these concepts help machine learning algorithms to study data sets and optimise them according to specific requirements. If you have a good core understanding of these concepts as a student, you can easily build your algorithms and models to help you understand how advanced algorithms function.


teacher standing in front of a blackboard with geometric equation

Data science and data visualisation require an understanding of geometry and visual mathematics. This involves graphs, charts, circles, lines and several other curves that showcase a relation to real-world problems and help derive better solutions.

Geometry is also a crucial part of proving theories related to data science algorithms and understanding them. This mathematics section is used by data analysts whose professional duties revolve around graphs and numeric data. They are well versed with concepts like scatter plots and distribution plots, and they can visualise data sets and work with different insights resulting from that data analysis.

When you dive deeper into the field, you learn how to convey your findings as a data scientist, and this helps you to communicate better as a professional. You will also be able to understand data problems from different perspectives to create better solutions.

What is the best way to study math for data science?

remotely teaching math for data science

If you want to upskill your maths and theory skills for data science, the best way to approach the task is through practice, problem-solving and building. First, pick a model or solution you like; even a basic algorithm will work.

Now, work backwards to dissect, evaluate and reprogram the whole thing using help from multiple resources. This technique will help you remember complex concepts and be an enjoyable exercise, which is precisely what maths should be.

For many students, maths is a notorious subject, mainly because it has been treated similarly by their peers, seniors and instructors. Instead, treating it like a game and mental exercise is essential to get the best results out of maths. You should never force yourself to stick to one learning method if it doesn’t work for you. It is important to try multiple sources and learning methods to find the type that fits your learning capabilities since mathematics is a different world for everyone. For instance, some students learn best from video lectures, but others feel more comfortable with textbooks.

If you want to understand maths theory better, start by reading the theorem and understanding what it says before you figure out the different applications used. Next, you should realise its different hypotheses and add practice questions to the grind. Finally, memorising essential theories related to critical data science skills is always a good idea.

With the right attitude, approach and undeterred persistence, maths will be an easy chapter in your data science journey.


If you want to tackle math for data science with a project and lots of practice, you can build a neural network. You will need all the core concepts discussed in this guide, and if you still need help understanding anything, take help from multiple sources, including online courses or YouTube videos.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in data science, you may want to explore Institute of Data’s 3-month full-time or 6-month part-time Bootcamps.

To find out more about our programmes led by industry professionals, you can download a Data Science & AI Course Outline.


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