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Re: Re: my wish list for Mathematica next major version
Two points. 1) Mathematica, or a comparable CAS, should suffice for all the basic educational technical computing requirements in universities. 2) Students who are not capable of handling university material and performing at university level should not be there. Elaboration. 1) In my view, Mathematica is not just another in a mix of computer languages (C++, Perl, Java, Mathematica, microassembler, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Labview, etc). That list makes no more sense than (calculator operation, penmanship, mathematics, greek alphabet, typing, decimal operations). Mathematica is a general and broad tool for applying mathematics in any technical field that uses mathematics. By and large Mathematica works at the level of mathematics. Mathematica will handle students general mathematical requirements in all their courses. Yes, in special fields other computer tools will be required. Students in computer science will require C, and assembly language, assemblers, hypothetical languages that illustrate various constructs, the technology of logic gates and other subjects. But students in other fields don't need to know this any more than students of my day had to know the technology of engraving graduations on slide rules and bonding ivory to wood. I'm sure there are many special purpose computer systems that apply to specialized fields. But these are 'Industrial Level' programs. Let students learn them later, when they actually enter a field that utilizes them. Give students a tool, one tool, that will fulfill their mathematical computing requirements at the university level. And give it to them early. The tool is there and it's not going to go out of date or evolve any faster than mathematics goes out of date or evolves. The schools are behind the curve. (And let Mathematica, and other CAS's be subjected to all the criticism they deserve - it still doesn't change the basic facts.) 2) Everybody knows that secondary education in the United States is a total disaster that leaves every student behind. The net result is that it probably does more harm than good. Because of politics there will be no solution until the effects are felt on a wider scale. In the meantime the universities shouldn't try to 'remediate' the unprepared students. The rot at the secondary level will only seep through the university level. Stick to the task at hand for those capable of it. David Park djmp at earthlink.net http://home.earthlink.net/~djmp/ From: carlos at colorado.edu [mailto:carlos at colorado.edu] To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net Learning a language in depth in college indeed shows good intentions. But is it feasible? When I did my graduate work at Berkeley (64-66) there were only two languages: Fortran IV and IBM assembler. (Well, COBOL was out but that was for a different school.) Engineering students learned FIV in one-semester courses taught mostly by EE instructors (CS didnt exist) which went fairly deep; e.g., 2-level storage management. One interesting aside is that many of the computer-savvy faculty at the time were experts in assembler and could read octal dumps - they had started before Fortran I came out in 58. That frame of mind can be seen in Don Knuth's early books. Contrast the situation today. By edict from curriculum committees, which indirectly receive industry inputs, an engineering undergraduate must be "reasonably proficient" in a panoply of languages that include C, Excel, a matrix language, a webmaker, and a WP. Languages from a second tier (C++, Perl, Java, Mathematica, microassembler, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Labview, etc) is taken as per major, or elective choices. (Fortran disappeared in '97.) Can they go deep in each language? For the majority, no way. No background, no time, no instructors. Few of the instructors are able to teach beyond the barest of basics. As for background & time, 30-40% of undergraduate education is remedial. Kids coming from the public HS system can barely write a complete sentence or divide two numbers by hand, let alone understand what a "dispatch table" is. And the graduate level is a similar story.