April 8, 2008 — Daniel Lichtblau, Scientific Information Group
I would like to point to a recent member of The Wolfram Demonstrations Project: Numerical Methods for Differential Equations.
It was submitted a few weeks ago, and I rather liked it because it illustrated several basic numerical approaches to solving a first-order differential equation. Without much fuss this quickly brings one into numerical analysis, approximation methods, and other polysyllabic topics important to engineering, math, and related fields.
As it was making the rounds through our review process, I received one of those phone calls that parents know all too well: the college student emergency homework appeal. I picked up the phone.
January 22, 2008 — Theodore Gray, Co-founder, Director of User Interfaces
I’ve been interested in education for a long time, and when someone suggests that the software system I’ve been working on for 20 years is bad for education, I take it personally.
So I was upset when a New Scientist magazine article “Physics Tool Makes Students Miss the Point”, reported on a study by Thomas Bing and Edward Redish, “Symbolic Manipulators Affect Mathematical Mindsets”, strongly implying that the study concluded that replacing paper-and-pencil calculations with Mathematica was educationally unsound.
And I was greatly relieved to find that the study itself says no such thing. Bing and Redish don’t recommend banishing Mathematica; they welcome it in their classrooms and point out many positive things about it, along with one relatively minor pitfall they suggest ways to work around.
What mindset led the reporter to jump to such a reactionary conclusion? Why use such an inflammatory headline in connection with level-headed research that showed, when you get right down to it, virtually the opposite of what the New Scientist headline says?
The question of what technology to use in the classroom comes up all the time, and the resulting debate often generates more heat than light. People feel strongly about the subject because at its heart it is a question about what it means to be human.
August 22, 2007 — André Kuzniarek, Director of Document and Media Systems
My two high-schoolers constantly struggle with math and science. And every time I sit down to help them out, I get my own slightly sweaty flashback to my school days, reminded of how glad I am not to be dealing with homework and boring classes every day.
With all the technological distractions available to kids now, it’s hard to get them to crack a book open. On the other hand, technology also offers the means to engross modern students in their classwork.
Working on Mathematica makes that all too obvious to me, but after 17 years at Wolfram Research, I’ve been so close to and inside our development process that I’ve been taking the obvious for granted.
Sure, once in a while I check the kids’ algebra homework using Solve. But sticking a computer in front of every student in a classroom is probably not the best way to engage them as a group.
Engaging kids is going to get easier now with a combination of two things coming together, which a few of us got to preview at our recent Mathematica Publishing Day event in Oxford.