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Re: A new graphic user interface

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  • Subject: [mg111743] Re: A new graphic user interface
  • From: "David Park" <djmpark at>
  • Date: Thu, 12 Aug 2010 05:28:04 -0400 (EDT)

As many people know, my paradigm for Mathematica is that it is a piece of
paper on which we write our mathematical and technical ideas. True, a rather
remarkable piece of paper with memory and active and dynamic capabilities,
but a development and writing medium none the less. It is not something that
can be learned in a day or a few weeks, anymore than we learned good
composition or writing techniques in a few weeks. We practiced it for many
years! It is even more difficult with technical writing and Mathematica
because of the additional significant complications of the medium and the

It would be nice if many more students had early exposure and practice with
Mathematica so that when they got to college it could be assumed they knew
it, and they could spend much more of their time thinking about the subject
matter and much less thinking about Mathematica. I know that there are a
number of good teachers who say that their students do just fine with a
short Mathematica introduction, but I am skeptical that the students get
anywhere near the benefit from Mathematica they might obtain with early
training. If they are flummoxed by % and %% or postfix // or Map and things
like that, they are not literate in the medium.

There are many barriers and obstacles to bringing about a more ideal
situation, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be a practical educational

David Park
djmpark at  

From: telefunkenvf14 [mailto:rgorka at] 

> 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.

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

Even if not directly applicable to their field of study, I really
believe it's valuable to broaden students' perspective of what's
possible. IMO, there is just far too little exposure to computer
science. Q: How are we going to pay for all of the social promises
we've made in this country (social security, etc.)?!? A: Well (I tell
my students) you'd better get more productive, or there won't be
enough output to go around!!

Maybe I'm young and naive about what's attainable...

(BTW, I do like Helen's screencasts and other web resources.... and
your's too, Murry!)


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