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Re: Thinking Mathematica: Any suggestions?

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  • Subject: [mg91735] Re: Thinking Mathematica: Any suggestions?
  • From: Bill Rowe <readnews at>
  • Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2008 05:32:52 -0400 (EDT)

On 9/6/08 at 2:06 AM, dave at (David Bailey)

>I know I will get flamed for saying this, but unless you will need
>high performance - not every Mathematica problem requires a lot of
>CPU - you may be best to start programming in a procedural way, and
>gradually start to learn functional programming later when you are
>more comfortable with Mathematica syntax.

I think there should be a caveat on you suggestion here. If
there is a need to get create code that solves a particular
problem quickly, then yes by all means use what you are most
familiar with. But if there is no such schedule pressure, then
it is better to forget For etc exist in Mathematica. The time
spent learning Mathematica's functional paradigm now will pay
dividends later.

Also, I believe there are more benefits to learning
Mathematica's functional paradigm than just high performance.
For example, with For loops it is easy to make the error of
using say n<100 when you should have used n<=100 resulting in no
processing the last item. The functional approach eliminates the
possibility of this type of error. That is, I believe less time
will be spent debugging a program that uses a functional
approach in Mathematica than a program that uses a procedural approach.

I agree, it requires quite a bit of time/effort to become
proficient with Mathematica's functional paradigm. But using
procedural code as a crutch won't reduce the amount of
time/effort needed. I strongly suspect the approach of slowly
introducing functional code in place of procedural code not only
delays learning of the functional paradigm but requires more
time overall. That is I believe learning is more efficient if
there are not significant gaps - periods where no learning is
needed since things are being done in a way already learned.

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