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Re: Mathematica and Education

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  • Subject: [mg64962] Re: Mathematica and Education
  • From: "Dave (from the UK)" <see-my-signature at>
  • Date: Fri, 10 Mar 2006 05:14:54 -0500 (EST)
  • References: <dulsnr$39r$>
  • Reply-to: Mar-2006 at
  • Sender: owner-wri-mathgroup at

fizzy wrote:
> Recently, there were several discussions regarding the use of 
> Mathematica in the classroom, etc...   I just took a course in Advanced 
> Electromagnetic Engineering 

I did something pretty similar 'Computer modeling of Fields' as part of 
an MSc Microwaves and Optoelectronics - I later did a PhD, although not 
on this subject.

I am also the author of an open-source program for computing impedance 
of transmission lines of arbitrary cross section.

> and I'm happy to say that I did not perform 
> a single pencil and paper operation.    

Personally I would be sorry to say that. And if you have any sense, I 
would not admit it at a job interview.

> I did all the homework and exams 
> using  Mathematica.   

Were you allowed Mathematica in an exam? At UCL they are very 
restrictive on the sort of calculators allowed, so something like 
Mathematica would not be allowed.

> Also,  in hindsight, without Mathematica I would 
> never take the course nor can I conceive of how I could without it 
> although I realize there was a time where people did work without 
> Mathematica.    The amount of  homework was horrendous and how you could 
> do it with pencil and paper operations is beyond me.    

I can't help feeling that doing some by pencil and paper is better for 

> In fact, I've 
> gotten so used to Mathematica that if I were told I can no longer use  
> it in my work, etc. , I would give Science up.   

You might well find like I did that I worked for a commercial company 
and got presented with something far less capable. I forget what I had 
to use at Marconi, but it was next to useless. I was quite glad when I 
later worked in the uni again and had Mathematica.

> That is how attached 
> I've become to Mathematica and how much more enjoyment I've gotten out 
> of Science problems using it.

I think science problems are interesting, not just because Mathematica 
exists. If the problem was not interesting, solving it with Mathematica 
would not give me any thrills.

> Also, when I have to use other languages I feel like a Programmer and I 
> dont relish that at all.  With Mathematica I actually feel that I'm 
> doing some thinking and analyzing instead of just writing lines of code. 

To me, if you use a lower level language you have to think far more. 
That enforces understanding in *some* ways.

In some cases, using a high level language you can think more about the 
problem than the details - and in many cases the details are not 
important. Do I really case how to calculate a log - probably not. I'd 
use Mathematica, a calculator or years ago a table of logs.

But I think in many cases the use of such a high level language can 
allow you to get answers without understanding.

I like Mathematica and introduced colleagues to it at uni. I arranged 
for us to buy copies for a Sun and later to get a departmental license. 
I was involved to a certain extent on discussions on a campus wide 

> Jerry Blimbaum

I can't help feeling your views are rather extream, and one I doubt even 
Wolfram Research as a company would share.

Dave K

Minefield Consultant and Solitaire Expert (MCSE).

Please note my email address changes periodically to avoid spam.
It is always of the form: month-year@domain. Hitting reply will work
for a couple of months only. Later set it manually.

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