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Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

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  • Subject: [mg130908] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
  • From: "mathgroup " <fizzymath at>
  • Date: Fri, 24 May 2013 06:27:17 -0400 (EDT)
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I had to chuckle at your use of the word 'conceal'.....unfortunately, I 
agree with your comment....mentioning Mathematica seems akin to 
treason.....that was the reaction I felt...


-----Original Message----- 
From: Murray Eisenberg
Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:00 AM
To: mathgroup
Subject: [mg130908] Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

This is not an uncommon situation at colleges and universities.

Too many of the old fogies -- and, more dangerously, the "young fogies" --  
know about Ma. . t. .b and cannot imagine why anybody who needs to do 
computing would use anything else. After all, it was good enough for them. 
(Exception: Canadians who thing the same about M . . . e.)

Similarly, too many mathematicians cannot see why their students should not 
learn how to carry out long and complex symbolic calculations, e.g., 
symbolic integration, with paper and pencil; after all, they had to do it. 
Oddly enough, some of these same mathematicians use powerful symbolic 
programs to do their own research in number theory, algebraic geometry, etc.

But I'm sympathetic to the view that there shouldn't be a course in a 
mathematics department on Mathematica per se. Just as there shouldn't be a 
course there in LaTeX per se. Just as Computer Science departments say they 
don't have a course in any programming language.

So if one is to make any headway, then one has to almost conceal the 
Mathematica within a mathematics course whose subject is some mathematical 
topics, or an engineering course whose subject is some engineering topic, 
etc. Just as, e.g., in some "junior year writing" courses taught by math 
departments, LaTeX is introduced and students have to do some or all of 
their papers in LaTeX. Or a mathematics department course in complex 
analysis where small teams of students do projects presenting some topic via 
a Mathematica notebook (where a couple of the projects might be teaching 
some Mathematica basics).

Perhaps this "sneaky" way is not the most efficient way for teaching and 
learning Mathematica, but it can work. In fact, Stephen Wolfram wrote in 
"The Mathematica Book" some years ago that, after learning a few basics and 
trying some simple examples from the book (today, the Documentation Center), 
"You will probably find it best to start by picking a specific problem to 
work on. Pick a problem that you understand well. . . Then go through each 
step in solving the problem, learning what you need to know about 
Mathematica to do it."

On May 23, 2013, at 4:10 AM, mathgroup <fizzymath at> wrote:

> David...
> But that was exactly my point...I tried so hard with our Community College
> and University to get Mathematica into the curriculum....or, as I said, to
> give some lectures and examples on the use of Mathematica....and ALL of
> them,  Engineering, Math and Physics Depts said  'Thanks but No Thanks', 
> as
> if they have something against Mathematica....It seemed that the idea that
> students would not use pencil and paper in as laborious a manner as 
> possible
> really bothered them....Not once did they think perhaps this might lead to 
> a
> real enjoyment of technical subjects and perhaps to much better
> understanding of their course work......even when I was working I was
> affectionately known as 'The Mathematica Nut'...although, I'm reminded of
> something that Nietzsche said....
> "Overzealousness on the part of one person can lead the others to
> Apostasy".....
> jerry blimbaum
> -----Original Message----- 
> From: djmpark
> Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 9:28 AM
> To: 'mathgroup ' ; mathgroup at
> Subject: Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
> It will be done by example. Several people will work together, exchanging
> Mathematica notebooks or working on a common notebook. The notebooks will 
> be
> what I call "literate"; they will look something like a technical paper or
> report, but they will take advantage of all the active and dynamic 
> features
> of Mathematica, and contain generated knowledge in the form of active and
> immediately accessible routines and definitions developed in the course of
> the effort.
> The notebooks will be of higher integrity than paper and pencil work, or
> using Mathematica as a programmed calculator and copying out because of 
> all
> the self-proofing and additional checks that can be performed. (Of course,
> one can still make errors but they should be rarer and not the common
> variety.)
> That all this can be done in a single application is a tremendous 
> advantage.
> Someday other people will see what they are doing and the advantages are 
> so
> great they will want to do the same thing. The task is getting more people
> to write and use good examples.
> David Park
> djmpark at
> From: mathgroup [mailto:fizzymath at]
> I want to comment on my experience , limited of course, with  students of
> Engineering, Engineers and Professors of background is
> Physics...
> First,  I get the impression that , in the main, Symbolic Computation, 
> etc.
> is not something they are really interested in......After I retired, I 
> took
> several courses in Electromagnetics, one Graduate and the other
> Undergraduate......No one suggested the use of or taught the potential
> applications of Mathematica....Even in the Graduate course, I was the only
> student using Symbolic software fact, the students did everything
> by hand and whenever something required software, such as Antenna 
> patterns,
> out came M-------b with some code , etc....and that was the end of 
> it....So,
> the students knew no better....and the Professors didnâ??t care or werent
> interested themselves in the benefits of learning and solving problems
> Symbolically....I asked one Professor if I could give a class lecture on 
> the
> use of Mathematica for Electromagnetics...He agreed but than said   'I can
> only give you about ten minutes'....I respectfully declined the offer....
> So, how does WRI expand its market?....IMO, there have to be dedicated
> Teachers on how to use Mathematica in what I'll call the Research Mode not
> just define given functions from the text and plot it.......from what I 
> have
> seen of the attitude of Instructors and Professors I'm anything but
> Optimistic....I went to our local Colleges and suggested a sequence of
> courses in Mathematica  ending with Animation and Simulation....That got 
> me
> nowhere especially with the Math, in part, I see people who are
> stuck in pencil and paper and refuse to get out of it....
> Again, of course, this is my limited experience...Perhaps others have had
> different and better ones...
> Jerry Blimbaum
> -----Original Message-----
> From: paulmchale7 at
> Sent: Sunday, May 19, 2013 4:50 AM
> To: mathgroup at
> Subject: Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
> I have (maybe) a minority perspective on Mathematica being an engineer.  I
> used it long ago at university at version 1.  The next time I would use it
> would be a wolfram approved ebay purchase of version 4.  I have used it 
> ever
> since, but am still rookie in some ways.
> I believe WRI is attempting to broaden the user base rather than deepen 
> the
> product.  They are doing this by adding (from our perspective) non-value 
> add
> features to lure people in.  The argument is the learning curve is less
> which should lead to greater sales.  This is not how it works at any place 
> I
> have been.
> The only engineering sales force that matters is engineers.  If they can't
> argue for the product, it will not happen.  Engineers can't argue for
> something they are unable use until after purchase and additional 
> training.
> If you want engineers to demonstrate something or argue for it, you have 
> to
> do more than offer wizards and connections to WolframAlpha which only 
> apply
> after the sale.  Engineers need to show understanding and capability.
> Managers have to show accounting they are saving money by buying
> Mathematica.  Improvements in quality of OUR products or ability to 
> address
> greater problems is not quantifiable to the brigade of MBAs who run modern
> businesses.  There has to be quantifiable savings.  This has to be
> demonstrated by engineering staff before purchase and framed in terms of
> reduced need for time (salary expense).
> I think this can only be achieved by making the online education material
> targeted to a specific audience.  This material must solve real problems 
> in
> a way that conveys the underlying capability.
> I have been told by WRI that most users will only use 5% (at most) of
> Mathematicas total ability.  LoL, if only everyone would use the same 5%.
> If you want us to be able to sell it, you have to provide training for 
> free
> so we can get started solving engineering problems prior to purchase.
> Combine this with a 60 day trial and you could save a lot of WRI 
> development
> dollars on bells and whistles that won't increase sales. Help us help you!
> Stop trying to treat sales tools as a profit center!

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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