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Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

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  • Subject: [mg130788] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
  • From: Murray Eisenberg <murray at>
  • Date: Wed, 15 May 2013 02:53:31 -0400 (EDT)
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As I already wrote, "Whether [the training wheels] has the intended effect is a separate question."  That's an empirical question to be decided by experience of new learners and teachers of new learners.

Meanwhile, an experienced user can turn off the doo-dads.

On May 13, 2013, at 4:46 PM, djmpark <djmpark at> wrote:

> I don't believe the "training wheels" model can really achieve the
> objective. Are these people preschoolers? The situation is rather something
> like this. Suppose all education was conducted orally until the junior year
> in college. No or little writing. Then the students are to get into some
> serious writing work. They are to write a critique of Marcel Proust's
> Remembrance of Things Past. They do get some powerful tools to do this: a
> computer with Microsoft Word, which has spell checking and some passable
> syntax and grammar checking; a dictionary and French/English lexicon, and
> French and English versions of Proust's work and maybe a couple  grammars.
> And since the students have never written much before, Word has been
> augmented with training wheels. A little button always appears at the start
> of a new paragraph with choices 1) Would you like to type a new sentence? 2)
> Would you like to enter a sentence in free spoken form? 3) Would you like
> Literary|Alpha to search for ideas on some topic? 4) Would you like to start
> a new Section? At the end of a paragraph a Suggestions box will appear with
> something like "Would you like us to add a sentence on Marcel's health
> problems in relation to the topic?" Gee, I never thought about health
> problems. So nice to remind me of that. Several weeks of this and they
> should be up to speed.
> Do you believe that method would achieve some worthwhile objective? Isn't it
> rather that it usually takes years for a student to become really good at
> expressing and manipulating ideas in written form? It's not surprising that
> some students, without much experience, would become terrified at a blank
> sheet of paper. Now add in mathematics and all of the new active and
> dynamical possibilities for expressing and manipulating mathematical ideas
> and don't we have a considerably greater learned skill? You can't replace
> extended education and practice by software. It's the failure to get
> Mathematica into early education that is the problem and getting it there is
> the remedy.. ..
> From: Murray Eisenberg [mailto:murray at]
> Re "clean" notebook interface:
> An experienced Mathematica user might well prefer a totally clean notebook
> as starting point for some work. But a new user, or potential new customer,
> might well panic at an essentially blank window. (The faint horizontal line
> with it's "+" icon at the top of a new notebook window is at least a
> starting point.
> Similarly for once the new user has typed and possibly evaluated some input:
> what should go there? what's the correct form? what can I do with it? So WRI
> has attempted to provide some guidance directly in the notebook, outside the
> Documentation Center. (Whether it has the intended effect is a separate
> question.)
> For example, suppose the new user, or somebody just trying out Mathematica,
> successfully types and evaluates:
>  Plot[Exp[-x] Cos[x], {x, -Pi/2, Pi/2}]
> And possibly (probably?) the user wants to enhance the graph. How do that?
> Well, the Next-computation Suggestions Bar provides an immediate and obvious
> way to approach it -- without having to look up Plot, wade through the long
> list of Options.
> I write the above as somebody who has helped hundreds of university students
> learn Mathematica and who realizes how much more efficient the learning
> would have been over the years had such front end doo-dads been available.
> They're like bicycle training wheels: they can help you get started, but you
> can get rid of them when they get in the way.. ..

Murray Eisenberg                                    murray at
Mathematics & Statistics Dept.      
Lederle Graduate Research Tower            phone 413 549-1020 (H)
University of Massachusetts                               413 545-2838 (W)
710 North Pleasant Street                         fax   413 545-1801
Amherst, MA 01003-9305

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