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Re: Re: Use of CAS in introductory science&engineering courses

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg61656] Re: [mg61623] Re: Use of CAS in introductory science&engineering courses
  • From: Pratik Desai <pdesai1 at>
  • Date: Mon, 24 Oct 2005 21:07:15 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <djfnco$avq$> <>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

Richard Fateman wrote:

>carlos at 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
I wonder what the core language of  a calculator could be :-) ,  for me 
mathematica is essentially a souped up calculator. I expect nothing more 
and nothing less...............

> 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.

Pratik Desai
Graduate Student
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Phone: 410 455 8134

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