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Re: Warsaw Univ. course, was Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!

I think this really sounds interesting, and hope to hear more about your
experiences later here. Of course there are questions and problems with it,
all new projects are "impossible" in one or another way. The really
interesting thing is to know if these impossibilities can be handled in some
good way. Good luck!

Ingolf Dahl

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Andrzej Kozlowski [mailto:akozlowski at]
> Sent: den 25 maj 2013 11:42
> To: mathgroup at
> Subject: Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen!
> Well, to disappoint everyone I have to confess that here, at Warsaw
University, we are
> going to have a university wide course in Mathematica, open to all
students of mathematics,
> natural sciences, economics and finance and even (oh horror!) computer
science (in fact, I
> am not in the process of trying to "sell" this course to my the students
in my analysis for
> computer science class). We have actually received a grant, quite
substantial by Polish
> standards, to implement such a course, and, of course, since everyone
likes extra money, this
> has meant that there has been no opposition or grumbling about it from any
"old fogies"
> (except perhaps one guy who complained that Mathematica was not open
source but we
> quickly stifled him).
> An even greater heresy: the course also is going to involve some knowledge
of Wolfram
> Alpha: in fact it is entitled "Mathematics with Mathematica and Wolfram
Alpha". (To RJF -
> no, we are not going to teach anything about any other CAS. If anyone
likes to use
> something other than Mathematica they can learn it itself, but won't get
any credit for it).
> Actually, our course is going to be a "supervised, self-study and Internet
based course". In
> other words, we (the project authors, who are getting paid for designing
and realising it) will
> prepare study materials (scripts, videos, problems in different
disciplines that can be solved
> with the help of Mathematica or Wolfram|Alpha, tests, etc. but there won't
be any lectures.
> There will however be tests and students will be able to get credit for
passing them -
> otherwise, of course, it would be hard to get them interested.
> A large part of the grant is for buying a fairly large number of copies of
Mathematica (in
> addition to the ones that are already here).
> Our motives for designing this project are quite selfish (and I don't only
mean the fact that
> we are going to be paid for this). There are several of us who want to use
Mathematica in
> our courses and it is a pain to have to waste time on teaching students
the basics of
> Mathematica. Soon there will be several new courses available to math and
science students
> in which Mathematica will be used. One of them is a new course on the
> geometry of curves and surfaces, which will be offered in addition to the
already existing
> one which does not use any computer software. (Students will be able to
take both
> sequentially - they are going to be sufficiently different for this to
make sense). There is also
> a course that I have taught in the past, for which there has been a big
demand among
> students of finance - on modelling jump processes. Contrary to the strange
ideas RJF got
> from my earlier post, this is not something that statistics packages have
been doing for years,
> actually it involves things that are pretty new (so much that there are
still unresolved
> problems with some of the
> algorithms) and, in fact, I am proud to admit to having played a certain
role in this
> implementation in Mathematica.
> We actually have quite a few people here who although they themselves
don't use
> Mathematica or CAS systems at all, have shown a lot of interest in having
students learn
> such things. The main interest is, in fact, not so much in symbolic
computation but in
> graphics used to illustrate various phenomena in topology, complex
analysis etc. Although
> one might expect that there should already be lots of such illustrations
available on the
> Internet (or even on Wolfram's Demonstrations Site"
> this does not seem to be actually the case.
> Of course, all of this is at this time only in its infancy. About a year
from now I should be
> able to say something about the success or failure of this project. At
this time the thing that
> worries me the most is the amount of work I foresee in trying to realise
all we have promised
> in the proposal.
> Andrzej Kozlowski
> On 24 May 2013, at 12:27, mathgroup <fizzymath at> wrote:
> > 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...
> >
> >
> > jb
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Murray Eisenberg
> > Sent: Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:00 AM
> > To: mathgroup
> > Subject: 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,
> >
> > 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 didn't care or weren't 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
> >> only give you about ten minutes'....I respectfully declined the
> >>
> >> 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
> >>
> >> 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
> > 710 North Pleasant Street                         fax   413 545-1801
> > Amherst, MA 01003-9305
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >

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