Why Math and Science Students Need Writing

I knew that I wanted to be either an engineer or an architect from the time I was 10 years old. I spent pretty much my entire childhood playing with LEGO and drawing house plans - first on paper, and later on my computer. In junior high, video games led me to learn the basics of code and now - 15 years later - I write computer programs for a living.


You might assume that for all those years math and science must have been my favorite subjects, but you'd be wrong. While I enjoyed physics and I was pretty good at mathematics (at least until calculus reared its head), those were the areas I struggled with the most at college. What I really loved was writing.

Two of my favorite classes in High School were English classes. In college, several of my roommates were writers, so we would sit around the kitchen table, drink beer and have short story competitions. During my senior year, I got really interested in journalism, so I cut back on my classes and started a campus blog. After I graduated, my first job was a mix of managing writers and writing code, and this year my goal is to write something every day.

As a software engineer I love having the power to create tools that people can use to do great things, but as a writer, I love being able to inspire people to actually take action. I think it's important that math and science students know how important and beneficial writing will be for their future career, so here are a few of the ways I've seen writing help me in mine:

1. Writing helps me organize my thoughts

Whether it's for a meeting, presentation, or job interview, writing out my thoughts forces me to organize them in a way that just outlining them does not. With writing, you have to think about the transitions and the flow of your sentences. Before I give a presentation, I'll often write out my speech to help me learn my topic and see where I need to work on my transitions and organization.

2. Written communication helped me with remote work

My first job after college had the option to work 100% remote. While I opted to split time between home and the office, being able to clearly communicate with my teammates was key to making the relationship work. Video conferencing and phone calls are great when all parties are available, but some communication has to be done asynchronously. That's where writing was invaluable.

3. Getting published helped me build connections

I started off publishing posts on my personal blog, but over the years I've had my work published on The Huffington PostThe Musea software development magazine, and at least half a dozen niche blogs. These aren't highly prestigious technical journals, but nevertheless several people have reached out to me with employment offers because of something I wrote.

4. Writing helps me showcase my technical knowledge

I am far from the best software engineer, but there are a few topics on which I am pretty confident. Writing about these things has helped me show both technical and non-technical audiences where my strengths lie. I include links to technical articles I've written on my resume so that employers can learn more about what I've worked on.

5. Writing is a great differentiator

Every engineering job description I've seen demands communication skills, but there are still far too few engineers who write regularly. Articles I've written have always been a great demonstration that I have written communication skills, and they're a great starting point for an interview.

6. Sharing is contagious

It's no secret that the United States isn't doing a great job educating students in math and science, and that's partly because those of us in the field aren't telling others about the cool stuff we do. We don't just sit around solving math problems all day - I can't remember the last time I used a differential equation - we build things, test things, break things, and communicate with others. Math and science students need to learn to love writing so they can pass their passion on and inspire future generations of scientists, engineers, and technology leaders.

That's why I think every student needs to write. If there's anything you'd like to add let me hear about it on Twitter, or better yet, send me a link to something you wrote on the topic.

This blog post was written by Karl Hughes, the Chief Technology Officer at The Graide Network.