By: MassLight Team

We all remember high school algebra. Heavy textbooks, hours of study, grueling exams. Even the arithmetically gifted won’t deny that the study of mathematics is time-consuming and laborious. There is a common conception that the math we study in school or college is altogether a “different beast” than the math most professionals use in their day-to-day lives. It’s true: academic mathematics and business mathematics are two distinct areas of study with different goals and applications. Academic math typically covers abstract mathematical concepts, such as algebra, geometry, calculus, and number theory. It focuses on developing a deep understanding of mathematical principles and developing problem-solving skills.

Business math, on the other hand, focuses on the practical applications of mathematics in the business world. It covers topics such as financial mathematics, statistics, and modeling, and emphasizes real-world problem solving and decision-making.

In the United States, the highest level of mathematics that most students complete is usually Algebra II (typically taken in the 10th or 11th grade). However, a significant number of high school students also take precalculus, trigonometry, or calculus. Yet, an estimated 2-3% of bachelor's degrees are awarded in mathematics each year. Clearly, many people believe their high school math skills will stand them in good stead well into their professional lives. Having a basic understanding of these mathematical concepts, however, can be beneficial for workers in all industries; in particular, founders and entrepreneurs. Strong arithmetic skills serve as the foundation for making data-driven decisions, building and improving their products, and communicating with technical team members. So, dust off that old textbook; let’s break down the top 4 areas of mathematics startup owners and employees benefit the most from.

**Linear Algebra: for building and understanding machine learning models**

Linear algebra is a branch of mathematics that deals with linear equations and their transformations. It is useful for startup founders in several ways:

**Machine learning:**Many modern machine learning algorithms, such as neural networks and principal component analysis, are based on linear algebra. Understanding the underlying mathematical principles can help startup founders make informed decisions about their product and technology roadmap.**Data analysis:**Linear algebra is a powerful tool for processing and analyzing large data sets. This is important for startups, as they often need to extract insights from data in order to make informed decisions.**Optimization:**Linear algebra can be used to solve optimization problems, such as finding the best route for a delivery company or maximizing profit for a financial services firm.**Communication with technical team:**A basic understanding of linear algebra can also help startup founders effectively communicate with their technical teams and understand the limitations and capabilities of the mathematical models they are using.

Overall, linear algebra is a valuable tool for startup founders, as it can help them make data-driven decisions, optimize their operations, and effectively communicate with their technical teams.

**Calculus: for optimization and cost functions**

Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with rates of change and slopes of curves. It is useful for startup founders in several ways:

**Optimization:**Calculus can be used to find the maximum or minimum values of a function, which is important in many optimization problems faced by startups, such as maximizing profits or minimizing costs.**Modeling:**Calculus is often used to model real-world phenomena, such as the spread of a disease or the growth of a customer base. Startups can use calculus to make predictions and simulate scenarios to inform their decision-making.**Cost functions:**Calculus is also used to analyze cost functions, which are important for startups looking to minimize costs and maximize profits.**Product design:**Calculus can be used to optimize the design of a product, such as determining the optimal dimensions for a new product or finding the best manufacturing process.

Calculus provides startup founders with valuable tools for optimization, modeling, cost analysis, and product design. A basic understanding of calculus can help founders make informed decisions and effectively communicate with technical team members.

**Probability and Statistics: for data analysis and decision making**

Probability and statistics are branches of mathematics that deal with the study of random events and the analysis of data. They are useful for startup founders in several ways:

**Data analysis:**Probability and statistics are essential tools for processing, analyzing, and interpreting large data sets. Startups often need to extract insights from data to make informed decisions, and a basic understanding of probability and statistics can help founders make sense of complex data.**Risk assessment:**Probability theory can be used to assess the likelihood of different outcomes, which is important for startups in making risk-management decisions.**Customer behavior:**Statistics can be used to analyze customer behavior and preferences, which is valuable for startups looking to understand their target market and improve their products or services.**Forecasting:**Probability and statistics can be used to make predictions about future events, such as sales projections or market trends. This information can be valuable for startups in developing their strategies and making informed decisions.

Overall, probability and statistics provide startup founders with valuable tools for data analysis, risk assessment, customer behavior analysis, and forecasting. A basic understanding of these subjects can help founders make informed decisions and effectively communicate with technical team members.

**Discrete Mathematics: for building algorithms and modeling systems**

Discrete mathematics is a branch of mathematics that deals with discrete, or countable, objects and the relationships between them. It is useful for startup founders in several ways:

**Algorithm design:**Discrete mathematics provides the foundation for algorithm design and computer science. Startups often need to develop efficient algorithms to solve complex problems, and a basic understanding of discrete mathematics can help founders understand the limitations and capabilities of these algorithms.**Network design:**Discrete mathematics can be used to model and analyze networks, such as social networks or communication networks. Startups can use these models to optimize their network designs, such as finding the most efficient way to connect users or distribute resources.**Combinatorics:**Discrete mathematics includes the study of combinatorics, which deals with counting and arranging objects. This is important for startups in fields such as logistics, where they need to optimize the distribution of resources or the scheduling of deliveries.**Cryptography:**Discrete mathematics plays a role in cryptography, which is the science of secure communication. Startups in the security or financial industries can use cryptography to protect sensitive information and ensure the privacy of their users.

Discrete mathematics provides startup founders with valuable tools for algorithm design, network design, combinatorics, and cryptography. A basic understanding of these subjects can help founders make informed decisions and effectively communicate with technical team members.

Overall, while math skills are important in certain areas of business, they are not the only factor in determining success. People with non-math backgrounds can bring valuable skills, perspectives, and experiences to a business and can be successful with the right combination of technical knowledge, business acumen, and interpersonal skills. A working comprehension of any of the principles listed above, however, can only help startup owners and stakeholders in maximizing the potential of their organization’s success.