MathGroup Archive 2005

[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index]

Search the Archive

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: simple set operations

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg57736] Re: [mg57719] Re: [mg57702] Re: [mg57693] Re: [mg57669] Re: [mg57635] simple set operations
  • From: "David Park" <djmp at>
  • Date: Tue, 7 Jun 2005 02:03:37 -0400 (EDT)
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at


Basically this is a tough nut to crack. The best way to learn Mathematica is to have the leisure to learn it or to just force one's self to take the time. The two groups of people I have sympathy for are students who are thrown into a technical course using Mathematica without ever really learning Mathematica, and professionals who are working on a deadline and suddenly decide they need something like Mathematica to complete their project. They want answers and aren't interested in becoming Mathematica gurus. But it's an unrealistic expectation.

For students, it would be worthwhile to learn the basics of Mathematica in high school, instead of calculus, which they can learn better in college. Or it would be worthwhile if technical colleges taught one semester courses on Mathematica before students had to use it in technical courses. Otherwise students are going to have to scrape along. Professionals will just have to decide if Mathematica is important enough a tool for them to take the time to learn. Otherwise they can perhaps hire Mathematica consultants to help them with their work.

I still think that the best way to learn Mathematica is to work through most of The Mathematica Book - actually typing in the examples and making certain they work.

WRI supplies many materials with Mathematica and some of them can be considered as short introductions. The "Getting Started with Mathematica" booklets are the first place to start. Many MathGroup posters are unaware of the material in these short booklets! Steven Wolfram's "Suggestions about Learning Mathematica", at the front of the book, is still the best guide for how to learn Mathematica. The 20 page "A Tour of Mathematica" at the front of The Book, although not a tutorial, will introduce one to many of the main features. "Part 1: A Practical Introduction to Mathematica" is really a shorter book within the book that will introduce most of the basic features.

Then isn't the Help Browser itself a 'cheat sheet'. Isn't it a fast way to get information on almost all of the functions and commands and all major topics? The Help Browser will always be susceptible to improvement, but I think it is pretty darn good.

There are many good books on the market introducing Mathematica. Two that I have that seem quite good are:

The Beginner's Guide to Mathematica: Version 4 by Jerry Glynn and Theodore Gray

Mathematica Navigator: Graphics and Methods of Applied Mathematics by Heikki Ruskeepaa.

But books like these often are just more nicely written presentations of Part 1 of The Book. Once one has learned the basic syntax and basic commands it is often most productive to work with simple NON-Mathematica books to practice translating the material into Mathematica notebooks and calculations.

For Tips and Tricks you might try:

Then there is MathGroup, which will usually get one good answers to most questions. They may not be instant but they're pretty fast if one provides a good email address.

I can understand the frustration of new users. When I started with Mathematica I was working by myself and wasn't on the Internet. It was pure hell. But having spent the time to learn the basics and practice, things got better. There are still many areas of Mathematica I don't know very well, and larger parts of mathematics, but now being on the Internet and having a friendly community of Mathematica users it has turned into pure heaven.

David Park
djmp at 

From: Edward Peschko [mailto:esp5 at]
To: mathgroup at

On Sun, Jun 05, 2005 at 04:17:45AM -0400, Murray Eisenberg wrote:
> Let's see: 300 to 600 pages constitutes a substantial chunk of Wolfram's 
> "The Mathematica Book".  Are you prepared to read that much of his book? 
>   If so, you would surely have found out what you needed to answer your 
> original question:

well of course, but that's not the point of a 'nutshell' book - the point
is to get people up to speed really quickly on a technical subject by 
skipping the exposition and cramming the book with the most important, core
concepts.  Its ratio of ideas to text is very, very dense. 

I've looked at the mathematica book before. Its comprehensive, yes,
but it is very wordy, and it has 'featuritis' - since it has to concentrate on 
everything, it can't focus on *anything* so there is no idea of what's the most
basic ideas at the core of the system, and what is more advanced.

And it weighs in at 5.2 pounds(!), with 1500 pages, so it isn't really a book
that you can use as a readily accessible table reference.

> ToExpression appears on page 428; MemberQ appears on page 124.  (I refer 
> to printed version of the edition for Mathematica Version 5.)

yes, and like I said, its a simple matter of actually finding these 
needles in this particular haystack.

> Of course whatever you read in a "Nutshell" or other such condensed 
> treatment, the chances are great that later, if not sooner, you'll have 
>   a problem that cannot directly be solved by what's there and that will 
> require putting together a bunch of stuff, or using sophisticated 
> techniques, etc.

well, of course, but your argument seems to suggest that there is only
one type of book that's worth writing - the comprehensive book. I'd say that
to reach everybody you should have at least a 'learning mathematica' book,
a 'mathematica reference' book, a 'mathematica tips and tricks' book, etc. etc. etc. 

Trying to shove all that stuff into one volume isn't doing Mathematica, or the
users of mathematica, any good..


  • Prev by Date: Re: Displaying Images on GUI during run time
  • Next by Date: Re: Finding Position in an ordered list
  • Previous by thread: Re: simple set operations
  • Next by thread: Constrained Optimization