Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg97206] Re: Mathematica 7.0.1.0 and some General Comments*From*: Helen Read <hpr at together.net>*Date*: Sun, 8 Mar 2009 05:50:24 -0500 (EST)*References*: <goqphr$lt2$1@smc.vnet.net> <got8d9$gkh$1@smc.vnet.net>*Reply-to*: HPR <read at math.uvm.edu>

AES wrote: > > On the other hand, I am also (equally sadly) not at all surprised by the > above observations. The bizarre and idiosyncratic and dysfunctional way > that Mathematica has evolved, in its structure and syntax, in its user > interface, You keep saying things like this, and I can only continue to disagree. The structure and syntax of Mathematica is completely consistent, and is not difficult to learn for anyone who is willing to put in a little time and effort. The new Classroom Assistant and Basic Math Input palettes make learning the syntax even easier. When we switched over to 7.0 this semester, I had some experienced Mathematica users in my classes, and some newbies. The newbies relied heavily on the new palettes when they were getting started, and by doing so avoided most of the syntax errors that newbies usually made in past semesters. They quickly caught up with their classmates in using Mathematica effectively, and most of the students use the palettes lightly; they find it quicker and easier -- yes, *easier*, because they understand the syntax -- to type in most Mathematica commands themselves. > in its pricing, and in its documentation, among other > factors, all contribute significantly to the dismal situation summarized > by David above. I don't understand how things can have gone so wrong > for Mathematica -- but they have. > > Ten years ago I was writing enthusiastic memos to my Deans and Vice > Provosts for Research, and my university's IT people, urging them to > invest university funds in Mathematica licenses and bookstore discounts; > to sponsor (or pay for) free training courses for students, faculty and > staff through the university; to promote the use of Mathematica > throughout every even mildly technical area of the university; and to > make it a kind of semi-official university standard for all areas of > research and teaching (as they had, at that time, semi-officially done > for the Mac platform). > > To be blunt, if a proposal like that were actually to be taken under > consideration by my university today -- not that there's any chance that > this could actually happen at this point -- I would actively oppose it, > or at least recommend that a major effort be undertaken to explore every > other possible substitute (and there are some out there) to meet the > same needs. We have a Mathematica site license at my institution that allows Mathematica to be installed on all university owned computers as well as computers personally owned by faculty, staff, and students. The students learn to use Mathematica as they go through the calculus sequence, and continue to use it as they go on in mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc. Yes, there is a learning curve, just as there is with mathematics itself, or with anything else that is worthwhile. It is 100% worth the effort. All of my students succeed in learning to use Mathematica effectively. All it takes is to provide them all with Mathematica, teach them the basics of using Mathematica at the beginning of the semester, use Mathematica routinely in class and require its use on assignments, and provide some support for the students (office hours, help sessions, e-mail, etc.) -- Helen Read University of Vermont