MathGroup Archive 2009

[Date Index] [Thread Index] [Author Index]

Search the Archive

Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do loop ?)

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg102076] Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do loop ?)
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Wed, 29 Jul 2009 05:06:48 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University
  • References: <h4m4ca$ecg$>

In article <h4m4ca$ecg$1 at>,
 Bill Rowe <readnews at> wrote:

> On 7/27/09 at 5:56 AM, siegman at (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.

  • Prev by Date: Re: Hacking Wolfram|Alpha
  • Next by Date: Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do
  • Previous by thread: Re: Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Show doesn't work inside Do loop ?)
  • Next by thread: Fast way to Rotate a bitmap in Mathematica 6.0