Re: Re: my wish list for Mathematica next major version #3

Hi Pratik,

I never get anywhere near academia, but it is clear from postings on
MathGroup and many private communications I have had that things could be
better with respect to technical computing in education.

Specifically, it is not fair that students should be expected to learn
technical material and Mathematica, or any other CAS, at the same time.
Perhaps students who are in careers using mathematics should have a required
one semester Freshman course in Mathematica or the CAS of their choice. They
still wouldn't know everything but at least they wouldn't be stumbling over
basic syntax and they might even develop an appreciation of the many
beautiful things that can be done.

It would be even better if students aiming for a technical career would
learn Mathematica in high school. It would be far more valuable to them than
a calculus course.

David Park

From: Pratik Desai [mailto:pdesai1@umbc.edu]

David Park wrote:

>It is interesting to hear what things bother students because that is
>important information.
>I'm not certain that a debugger is the best solution. Rather, I suspect
>students have not learned well enough how to use Mathematica.
 Hi David,

In most cases in the (atleast in the) engineering curriculum rarely
offers courses particularly focussed on learning a language or a
package. The student is expected to learn the language/package as he
uses it in the course. So any little help at the earlier stages  goes a
long way in determining the success of the students ability to master
the package/language and indeed the course material. Althought the
tutorial offered by mathematica is quite good, essentially more
interactive tutorials could go a long way in helping students learn
Mathematica the right way.  But on  the flip side of the coin, I have
learnt a lot about mathematica just trying debugging messages and
understanding the output, and sometimes has even helped me figure out
conceptual errors in my approach.

Best regards

Pratik Desai

PS: Thank you for calling my attention to Dialog.....pretty neat

Pratik Desai
Graduate Student
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Phone: 410 455 8134

djmp (1214)
9/3/2005 6:11:29 AM
comp.soft-sys.math.mathematica 28821 articles. 0 followers. Follow

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Learning a language in depth in college indeed shows good intentions.
But is it feasible?

When I did my graduate work at Berkeley (64-66) there were only two
languages: Fortran IV and IBM assembler. (Well, COBOL was
out but  that was for a different school.)  Engineering students
learned FIV in one-semester courses taught mostly by EE instructors
(CS didnt exist) which went fairly deep; e.g., 2-level
storage management. One interesting aside is that many of the
computer-savvy faculty at the time were experts in assembler
and could read octal dumps - they had started before Fortran I came
out in 58.  That frame of mind can be seen in Don Knuth's early books.

Contrast the situation today.  By edict from curriculum committees,
which indirectly receive industry inputs,  an engineering undergraduate
must be  "reasonably proficient" in a panoply of languages that include
C, Excel, a matrix  language, a webmaker, and a WP.  Languages
from a second tier (C++, Perl, Java,  Mathematica,  microassembler,
AutoCAD,  SolidWorks, Labview, etc) is taken as per  major, or elective
choices. (Fortran disappeared in '97.)

Can they go deep in each language?  For the majority, no way.
No background, no time, no instructors.  Few of the
instructors are able to teach beyond the barest of basics.
As for background & time,  30-40% of undergraduate
education is  remedial.  Kids coming from the public HS system
can barely write a complete sentence or divide two numbers
by hand, let alone understand what a  "dispatch table" is.

And the graduate level is a similar story.

carlos151 (336)
9/4/2005 7:33:37 AM