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Re: A new graphic user interface

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  • Subject: [mg111735] Re: A new graphic user interface
  • From: Helen Read <hpr at>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2010 05:26:14 -0400 (EDT)
  • References: <i3oh1n$pgr$> <i3tnug$s7t$>
  • Reply-to: read at

On 8/11/2010 4:45 AM, telefunkenvf14 wrote:
> On Aug 9, 4:16 am, Murray Eisenberg<mur... at>  wrote:
>> Comments interspersed below.
>> On 8/8/2010 7:22 AM, telefunkenvf14 wrote:
>>> One related example, which I believe emphasizes my point: When
>>> students jump into using palettes they're able to create a pile of poo
>>> rather quickly----a pile they cannot possibly debug due to the fact
>>> they've never absorbed 'everything is an expression'. Clinging to the
>>> pointy-clicky route also makes the documentation seem very foreign to
>>> new users. I have nothing against using palettes, but things need to
>>> be learned in proper order....
>> I held that position, too. But Helen Read's reports in this group
>> provide empirical evidence that this is an unfounded concern: with the
>> Classroom Assistant palette, what begins as point-and-click soon morphs
>> into just typing input, apparently without much or any intervention by
>> the instructor to suggest this change.
> Not convinced. I sense this observation is (in part) shaped by the
> topic of the class.

It absolutely depends on what you are teaching. In calculus, I start 
them off with the palettes, and let the students wean themselves from 
the palettes at their own pace. It happens naturally, because everyone 
eventually picks up the syntax as they go, and they all get sick of 

> If you're teaching a pure math class? Then sure,  I can see how
> starting with palettes would do no serious harm---but it all depends
> on the skill-set you want students achieve by the end of the semester,
> and the types of applications you show/build in class. (Simple problem
> solving

Simple problem solving is a good place to start.

> vs. building more complicated models and interfaces, grabbing
> data from the net, automating emails or SMS messages, etc.)

When I teach our transition-to-higher-math course (which includes proof 
writing etc. in the context of some topics in discrete math), I have the 
students write Mathematica programs for things like encryption. They 
aren't using palettes for any of it, and the existence of the palettes 
is neither a hindrance nor a help -- we simply don't use them. I do 
find, though, that students who came from my calculus class into this 
course pick up the Mathematica faster than those who did little or no 
Mathematica in their calculus classes.

Helen Read
University of Vermont

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