Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do loop ?)
- To: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net
- Subject: [mg102076] Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do loop ?)
- From: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>
- Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 05:06:48 -0400 (EDT)
- Organization: Stanford University
- References: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In article <h4m4ca$ecg$1 at smc.vnet.net>, Bill Rowe <readnews at sbcglobal.net> wrote: > On 7/27/09 at 5:56 AM, siegman at stanford.edu (AES) wrote: > > > >As a more specific definition of an expected audience, it seems to > >me (and, I think, Helen Read) that Mathematica -- or at least a more > >consistent and less perplexing form of Mathematica: > > >1) Could be very accessible to bright high school students, maybe > >with some hand holding; > > The problem here is most high school students are in the process > of learning mathematics and have little knowledge of advanced > mathematics. Is it really a good idea to give students learning > say algebra access to a tool like Mathematica? If you do, what > will they learn? Algebra or usage of the tool? I don't disagree with much of what's in this post. But I'd note that the educational meta-question in the preceding paragraph -- "learn the topic, or learn the tool?" -- has been raised repeatedly and discussed extensively in many earlier cases, never to any very satisfactory solution. A recent example? -- The period when handheld calculators started to appear in classrooms. It's a good question to worry about; it's just that there may not be any good general answer. > >2) Could be (and to some extent is) useful to average college > >students and to working BS level engineers as a helpful working tool > >in any technical or mathematically oriented area; and > > What do you see as he "average college student"? As I recall my > experience in college, the combined total engineering, > mathematics, physics and chemistry majors was at most about half > the total campus population at the freshman level. And I think, > the ratio of became less at more advanced levels. That is my > guess is there are more college students that have little use > for what Mathematica offers than there are that would find > Mathematica useful. Maybe so. But we (the rest of the world) *need* that subset that would find Mathematica useful, and should foter 'em every chance we get. > >3) Could be (and to a considerable extent is) a very, very powerful > >personal hands-on tool for graduate students, faculty, designers, > >engineers, and researchers for doing real work in a very wide range > >of fields (not just engineering, math or science). > > >And that's a very massive audience. > > Perhaps not as massive as you suppose. Well, massive enough to have supported a hell of a lot of computer tools (hardware and software) over the past six decades, and to have done a hell of a lot of good for the world -- and thank God for that. > >(Note that I'm writing here about people whose primary focus is on, > >and whose energies are primarily devoted to, the work they want to > >do -- the problems they want to solve -- and who do not want to > >convert their primary focus to becoming a Mathematica expert.) > > My guess is few if any of the posters here that you might label > as "Mathematica experts" outside of those employed by WRI ever > had as their primary focus "becoming a Mathematica expert". > Certainly for myself, my focus is on using Mathematica to solve > problems I am working on, not learning Mathematica per se. But, > it is also true the more I use and learn Mathematica the more > effectively I can apply it to problems I am working on. And of > course, usage of Mathematica to solve more problems means I gain > more expertise in using Mathematica. And I'd like to see Wolfram do more to help you, and me, do what you say here -- and I'm still of the belief that some of the directions Mathematica has headed into make your job, and mine, harder, not easier.