Tips and Resources

Learning Mathematica

Some students and instructors are convinced that the students must study Mathematica as a programming language before they can begin their study of calculus. These students have condemned themselves to needless misery. Making Math is written so that students learn as much Mathematica as they need on a “just in time basis.” They learn it gradually and always in context. The going might be a bit rough for the first couple weeks as students adapt to an unfamiliar environment, but about 90% of the students in the field tests who adjusted to Mathematica this way reported that they were comfortable with Mathematica by the third week. You will find that your students will learn what they need to know, when they need to know it, because they have a context for which it is important to them.

Copying, pasting and editing code is an important aspect of the courseware. Encourage students to look in the electronic Basics and Tutorials for some Mathematica code or text that they can adapt to their current work and then encourage them to copy it, paste it, and edit it to suit the problem they are working on. Let the students know that they do not have to apologize for this. There is no reason for students to “tough it out” when they can copy, paste, edit and then go on to a new challenge. In fact, this is not dissimilar to how students work in more traditionally taught courses.

Many Try It problems lend themselves to the copying, pasting and editing approach. These problems are present to encourage the students to become familiar with the ideas in the Basics and Tutorials. Some Try It problems do not lend themselves to copying, pasting and editing. After the student is finished with the copying, pasting and editing problems from a given lesson, the student is likely to have enough experience to tackle the Try It problems that do not lend themselves to copying, pasting and editing.