Re: Use of CAS in introductory science&engineering courses
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg61623] Re: Use of CAS in introductory science&engineering courses
- From: Richard Fateman <fateman at cs.berkeley.edu>
- Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2005 01:44:04 -0400 (EDT)
- Organization: University of California, Berkeley
- References: <email@example.com>
- Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at wolfram.com
carlos at colorado.edu wrote:
> There seem to be some confusion in the "Language versus
> Library" debate as regards the proper mix of "computer science"
> versus "applied mathematics" in introductory undergraduate
> courses. In my opinion some of the confusion has historical roots.
> In the US, computer science (CS) departments did not exist as
> individual entities before 1965. (The 1st was established by George
> Forsythe at Stanford, if I remember correctly).
The first Department of Computer Sciences in the United States was established
at Purdue University in October 1962 according to
At creation time they
> were often spawned from one of two sources:
> Math department (-> CS becomes part of Arts & Sciences)
> EE department (-> CS becomes part of Engineering)
> If spawned from Math, the original CS tended to have a strong
> applied-math + numerical analysis core.
Not my impression. I think that ones originating from math
tended to have a strong abstract math flavor, e.g.
abstract families of (formal) languages, automata theory,
theory of computability. Numerical analysis contributes
but is not a focus. Applications (e.g. applied physics)
is small. UC Berkeley's computer science (in the
College of Letters and Sciences) started that way.
If from EE, they tended to be
> "computer engineering" and hardware oriented.
UC Berkeley had one of those, too, until they merged in
about 1972, and EE&CS became one department. The EE
contribution included things like "systems" and "optimization"
> This is an unstable stage. It is essential part of human
> nature to try to establish an identity. As a consequence,
> CS departments have gradually focused on software: languages,
> networks, databases, AI, interfaces, etc., as their core mission.
> The result has been a "reverse migration". Math-oriented academic
> types have found more hospitable homes in science or applied math
> departments. For example at Colorado-Boulder a Program in Applied
> Mathematics was created in the late 1980s; as of now this is a
> department in its own, separate from Mathematics proper.
> Hardware oriented types gravitated back to EE or kept joint
> appointments. By now the reconfiguration is approaching
> steady-state, as one can verify by reading faculty position
> announcements in CS.
> Consequence: programming service courses taught by CS faculty to
> lower division students in engineering and sciences tend to focus on
> nuts-and-bolts languages. In our case, the favorites are C++ and Java
> (Fortran disappeared around 1995, C around 2000). Focus is
> programming, data structures and interfaces. Math is incidental;
> algorithms are used only as examples. That is the way it is and
> will be: wishful talk will not change human nature.
I guess we are in agreement about this: Atica does not sell here.
> On the other hand, service courses offered by our Applied Math
> (for example, the Calculus sequence) do use Mathematica and
> similar high level tools in recitations and labs. For obvious reason:
> they fit course objectives (=learning Math) better, and programming
> becomes incidental.
Learning Atica or mathematica is not usually a core objective in a calculus course.
At UC Berkeley, the history of the calculus labs seems to be that
if the instructor is a fan of some computer algebra system X, then
that is used. The next year it is CAS Y, etc.
For some schools the choice is made for a handheld graphing
calculator. Given the kind of usage .. a few commands, a few
plots, I suspect not much harm is done to most students.... since those
who go on to programming (or have previous programming
contact) will see other languages too.
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