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Re: Mathematica and Education

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg65719] Re: Mathematica and Education
  • From: Paul Abbott <paul at>
  • Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 03:48:44 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: The University of Western Australia
  • References: <> <dv69t4$oec$>
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

[This post has been delayed due to email problems - moderator]

In article <dv69t4$oec$1 at>, ggroup at wrote:

> I think this is a critical point that hasn't been addressed so far.
> From my experience, in undergrad, there were many physics courses that
> required relatively advanced mathematical concepts at times when the
> student wouldn't have gone through the corresponding math course. So
> in the pencil and pen model, it seemed like a large fraction of the
> time available for the physics course was spent learning the mechanics
> of the required math, when it could have been spent learning the
> underlying physics concepts. And it's not like the student wouldn't
> have seen the mathematical detail, the syllabus required the advanced
> math courses that covered these topics, just they were scheduled for
> subsequent semesters.

I agree that this is a very important point. Later this semester I am 
teaching an introductory (second year) mathematical methods of physics 
course. I have not found the "perfect" text, but my favourite is 
"Mathematical Methods of Physics" by Mathews and Walker (1964). However, 
this book is intended for senior physics undergrads. Nevertheless, 
through judicious use of Mathematica, I think much of this course can be 
taught earlier. 

"Standard" texts like "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences" by 
Boas (2006) attempt to be encyclopedic. What I like about Mathews and 
Walker is that the focus is on physics and the choice of topics and 
examples are the ones that I use regularly, and wish that I'd learnt 
when I was an undergrad.


Paul Abbott                                      Phone:  61 8 6488 2734
School of Physics, M013                            Fax: +61 8 6488 1014
The University of Western Australia         (CRICOS Provider No 00126G)    

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