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Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Re: Show doesn't work inside

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  • Subject: [mg102183] Re: The audience for Mathematica (Was: Re: Show doesn't work inside
  • From: Pillsy <pillsbury at>
  • Date: Fri, 31 Jul 2009 05:59:06 -0400 (EDT)

On Jul 29, 5:07 am, Richard Fateman <fate... at> wrote:

> Helen Read wrote:

> > It *is* useful to average college students. Every one of my calculus
> > students learns to use Mathematica successfully, even the below average
> > students. The Classroom Assistant palette has made the learning curve
> > even easier for them.

> By what measure is it useful to these students? What most observers
> would consider a mark of success is that the students learned the
> subject matter (calculus) more effectively with Mathematica than
> without.

I started using Mathematica around the time I took calculus---I was a
"bright high school student" rather than an "average college
student"---but I found it very helpful at the time, even when I was
primarily using it for self-directed study. Having something that I
could check my results against, especially when I was learning to do
integrals, was really quite helpful, as was having an easy way to
numerically solve and plot the solutions of ODEs, or even comparing
plots of functions and their derivatives.

This was all about 15 years ago (Mathematica 2.2, I think) and
graphing calculators may be a lot more capable now, but then again
Mathematica has gotten a lot easier to use in a lot of ways. I really
wish I'd had the online help system back then, that's for sure.

I also wound up teaching myself a fair amount about special functions
just because they were there in the program and they seemed kind of
cool and mysterious. It was really useful having that knowledge going
into classes on PDEs and quantum mechanics in college.

> Being introduced to Mathematica per se may be useful to some
> of them who have a career that involves continued access to Mathematica
> or perhaps similar programs, but this is somewhat unlikely to be the
> case for "average" math students.

This may be true. As a better-than-average math student who ended up
going into physics, I found knowing Mathematica was quite useful at
every subsequent stage of my career. I don't know how much of this is
attributable to Mathematica per se; the benefits might well have been
similar if I'd gotten started with a competing product.


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