Mathematical knowledge: Do you need it to become a successful product manager? What types of math do product managers use in their roles? Can you get by with just the basics, or do you need to enroll in some classes to brush up your math knowledge? 

In general, the importance of math skills for a product management role will depend on each specific role, as well as the industry you’re working in. Product managers may be responsible for analyzing data, reading financial reports, and applying financial metrics to make strategic decisions, all of which requires math knowledge.

However, the role of a PM also extends far beyond analyzing numbers—so if you don’t consider yourself a numbers whiz, don’t worry just yet. Product managers must also lean heavily on communication, creative vision, follow-up skills, and other soft skills to perform their work. 

For this piece, we spoke with: 

Read on for their takes on whether or not math skills are important for PM roles!  

Thanks to Nikki Carter for crafting this piece for GoPractice.

Nikki Carter is a journalist and editor.

She’s worked with companies like Indeed, Skillshare, and Wistia. Her articles have been published in Business Insider, The Muse, and more. 

How important is math knowledge for PM roles?

Our experts had varying opinions on how much math knowledge you need to be a PM, with some feeling that it was not a barrier to entry and others commenting that it’s only getting more important. 

“The stigma around math being a barrier to becoming a PM just isn’t true.” 

I was concerned about how important math was when I transitioned from journalism to software engineering. In reality, the work has very little to do with math and more about complex problem solving and breaking problems down. 

If I could become a software engineer with my math skills, the barrier of entry for a PM is little to none by comparison. 

I think the stigma comes from people’s perception around tech in general and the feeling that it’s all about algorithms and math, but that’s not why the big tech firms want to hire PMs. Your job as a PM is to empathize with your customers/stakeholders so you can understand their problems and pain points, then be able to communicate effectively and set expectations, and ultimately figure out what to build and why to build it. I’m not sure I’ve ever needed any complex math skills in my role as a technical product manager.

On the other hand, a big part of my role is working with my engineering teams, and as a former developer myself, it certainly helps to know code as I can better empathize with my team, communicate level of effort, and set reasonable expectations around the organization in terms of what’s blocking us, how long turnaround might be, etc.

Still, there is no math involved there. Maybe it helps that I was a developer before, but really, no one cares. If you’re worried about math, you might focus that energy on computer science instead because it can give you an advantage within tech companies. I’m sure there is variance based on industry for more senior PMs, but understanding basic computer science sets you up for success more than any particular math skill.

Once you start to level up as a PM, much more emphasis is centered around strategy. In order to get buy-in for initiatives you want to push, you should get familiar with data analysis. This is where some general math concepts can come in handy: statistics, probability, maybe some algebra and calculus. Again, this would be further into your PM career. I want to convey that in my opinion, a lack of perceived math skills should not stop anyone who has an interest in product management.

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“Math skills are becoming more and more important.” 

I believe math skills are becoming more and more important. If in the past, PMs could get away and maybe use math for analyzing market potential and growth, or while working in tech-heavy industries requiring deep math knowledge, these days a PM does need a better foundation. 

Of course, it depends on the industry, type of company, and role. But, for example, a PM has to know how to interpret A/B test results, or understand complex data and metrics. It is also critical for understanding cost and pricing and making the right financial decisions. And since the number of AI PMs is growing rapidly, I’d say that math plays a significant role in understanding and evaluating ML algorithms.

I am actually a PM without technical background; therefore, I can only emphasize the importance of having math skills. A lot of my success has come from trial and error, having great patient peers among engineers and data scientists, continuous learning, and not giving up. 

For others, I’d recommend making sure that the foundation is solid: algebra and probably calculus, and then statistics. That would help with quantitative problems. And then depending on the company, machine-learning or financial modeling. 

I think the key value for a business is not how many formulas a product manager knows or can apply, but how the understanding of math can make them work more efficiently and help with strategy and decision-making.

“I use math every day.” 

Math skills are incredibly valuable for product managers. I use math every day, including Algebra! How excited would my middle school algebra teacher be? Though I wouldn’t call them the single most important skill (effective communication and user empathy might top that list), they are definitely crucial for success.

A lot of product management is data analysis. PMs need to have math skills to analyze market data, interpret user metrics, and understand trends. Most importantly, math helps determine correlations like what types of users click which buttons and what causes people to stay on a screen.

Are there tools out there that can do the heavy lifting for you? Yes, however, you need to understand the underlying calculations to ensure the data is accurate and be able to interpret and explain the findings. For instance, understanding how statistical significance is calculated in A/B tests prevents you from drawing conclusions from data that might be just random fluctuations.

PMs should definitely be comfortable with numbers and basic data analysis. If the idea of spreadsheets and charts makes you break out in a sweat, product management might be a challenge. The most important areas for PMs are basic statistics, probability, and understanding how to analyze data. A good foundation from school helps, but there’s a lot of specific product management data analysis that’s best picked up in extra courses or on the job.

The key is being willing to engage with data and interpret its meaning. You don’t have to love doing complex calculations in your head. Calculators, spreadsheets, and even AI tools can handle the crunching. I’d advise aspiring PMs to focus on what numbers can do for them… how can data help you understand users better or improve a product’s success? Focusing on these outcomes can make the math aspect feel less intimidating.

What are some examples of how you use math skills for your daily tasks or decision making processes?

These product managers use math skills to understand factors like level of effort, user engagement data, conversion rates, A/B testing, and more. 

“It’s pretty likely that you’ll be stepping into an established process.” 

It’s situation-dependent, but let’s say your team lacks a dedicated scrum master. You would need to understand level of effort for each ticket in your backlog (most teams use a point system or some variation of that). You can pipe that data into a spreadsheet or template to understand the effort required to complete your sprint vs your capacity. That requires some calculus.

Still, I’d outsource this work—either by finding a template to get started, or connecting with another PM at the org. 

Wherever you land, I doubt that you will be creating an entirely new sprint process, so more than likely you will step into an established process. In that case, you would focus your attention on analyzing whatever data is accessible to you to help you better understand how efficient your team is. That will help you communicate your team’s expected turnaround time and how that fits into your product roadmap. 

How Saas PMs use math 

As a SaaS PM, math skills help to analyze user engagement data, conversion rates, and churn rates. I was part of the pricing decision making on multiple occasions when math was used to consider production costs and competitor prices. 

These days, math helps PMs have better conversations with engineers and data scientists while working on AI/ML products, especially when making decisions about the viability of certain features. 

“Looking at usage metrics is a big one.” 

Here are a few examples of how I use math in my work. Looking at usage metrics is a big one: how many users do we have? Are they active? How long do people stay on a particular screen? All this tells a story, and it’s told with numbers. Simple calculations and percentages give me an idea of where things stand, and sometimes fancier statistics help spot trends.

A/B testing is another area where math comes in handy. When we try out new features, did option A or option B work better? Math helps to figure out if the results are actually meaningful, or if it was just a lucky break by one of the options. 

Forecasting is less precise, but still involves math! How many users might we have next month? How much revenue will the new feature bring in? A bit of estimation and modeling goes a long way.

Even prioritizing involves some less obvious math. I have to consider things like how many users a feature will help, how hard it is to build, and what kind of impact it might have on the business. Sometimes, I have to try and put numbers to those concepts to make the best call.

Do the math skills PMs need differ by industry? 

The consensus here was that yes, math skills that product managers need will absolutely change from industry to industry; for example, working in e-commerce might require PMs to deal with a high volume of quantitative data, while SaaS product managers should be equipped to navigate complex A/B tests. 

“Specific math skills are critical.” 

I think narrowing down and having more specific skills, particularly in math, has become critical. For example, among the industries I’ve worked in, SaaS Enterprise is very data-driven. E-commerce relies heavily on quantitative data, and Mobile requires an understanding of predication modeling.

“There’s definitely a variation in how much math matters, depending on industry and product type.” 

Data product managers, those working in e-commerce, and SaaS product development often need a high level of mathematical proficiency. They rely heavily on in-depth analytics, and complex A/B testing scenarios, and might even need to understand pricing models or revenue forecasting strategies.

On the other hand, product managers working on internal administrative tools, backend database systems, or similar products might have less need for day-to-day mathematical calculations. Their focus might be on user workflows, security requirements, and system integrations rather than data-driven decision-making.

Additionally, if you’re drawn to products heavily reliant on algorithms, machine learning, or AI, a strong grasp of the underlying mathematical models will be essential.

While you certainly don’t need to be a math whiz to excel in product management, the importance of mathematical skills will heavily influence the types of products where you’ll thrive.

Where can aspiring PMs gain necessary math skills, and what classes would you recommend?

If you want to strengthen your math skills, there are many resources out there now, from college coursework to online educational courses via platforms like Coursera and Udemy. 

Additional courses are critical for growing your career

I’d say statistics is really important for all date-related PM roles, and Algebra for AI PM roles. 

Typically, high schools provide good foundational courses in math. 

Also, let’s not forget that there are still hardly any college programs dedicated for PMs, so it is important to take additional courses. For example, Math for Business Management, Business Analytics, or Fundamentals of ML, depending on one’s career goals and aspirations. Additionally, Coursera, Udemy, and other online educational platforms offer some targeted courses depending on the PM’s needs.

The beauty of product management is that it is a complex, multi-layered, and dynamic career that requires a combination of various skills. While math is valuable, I would not underestimate the importance of communication, collaboration, and critical thinking in product management. 

Combining hard and soft skills, thriving to understand and ask questions, never ceasing to learn and know more, and having empathy and deep understanding of customer challenges makes a well-rounded product professional. 

Focus on statistics coursework 

Statistics was always a bit of a struggle for me, in both high school and college. Honestly, I wish I’d put more effort in or taken another course because it comes up a lot in my work now! Beyond basic algebra, a lot of online product management relies on multivariate testing, which gets into more complex stuff. A/B testing seems easy (which version works better?), but there’s the math behind making sure the results are meaningful and not just random chance. 

Understanding the difference between correlation and causation is super important; otherwise, it’s easy to draw the wrong conclusions from data.

These days, even more sophisticated techniques are being used, like the “multi-armed bandit” approach. It sounds a bit out there, but it’s essentially a way to optimize experiments on the fly. This allows you to get insights faster and make data-driven decisions more confidently. It’s clear that a solid grasp of statistics is crucial to keeping up with the evolving world of product management.


As you can see, the level of required math skills for PMs varies widely and will depend on industry, specific job requirements, and seniority level. We’re grateful to these experienced product managers for giving us a holistic view of how they personally use math for their own jobs, as well as advice on how PMs can acquire the necessary math knowledge to succeed.