Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools

*To*: mathgroup at smc.vnet.net*Subject*: [mg113586] Fonts, Formats, and examples as learning tools*From*: AES <siegman at stanford.edu>*Date*: Wed, 3 Nov 2010 02:57:01 -0500 (EST)*References*: <iaonfn$jeg$1@smc.vnet.net>

In response to a query about Fonts and Formats, Bob Hanlon <hanlonr at cox.net> suggests the example: > Style["This is a test of various fonts 0123456789", > FontFamily -> #, 18] & /@ > {"American Typewriter", "Arial", > "Papyrus", "Playbill", "Webdings", > "Zapf Dingbats"} // Column I was intrigued by the "// Column" suffix -- a usage I had not previously encountered. And, it took my mind back to a couple of recent threads where posters enthused over 'examples' as a desirable form of documentation, and as a good way of learning the intricacies of Mathematica. My (unposted) reaction at that time had been that examples can give you good bits of code, which you can copy and use immediately; but they can also be a *bad* (or at best misleading) way of learning Mathematica, because of the human tendency to think that if some particular coding gimmick works in one example, it's likely to work in other apparently similar or parallel situations -- in other words, the natural human tendency to generalize. The above example provides a beautiful example of this. Try copying it and executing it six consecutive times, replacing the word 'Column" successively by Row, RowForm, Column, ColumnForm, Table, TableForm [and, as always, make your own prediction *in advance* as to what's going to happen in each case.]