January 5, 2011 — Kelvin Mischo, Sales Engineer

After talking with community college educators recently at the national AMATYC conference in Boston, I’m reminded, once again, that time is the most valuable commodity in a teaching setting.

It takes time to plan a lesson for students, time to refine this lesson such that it has the most impact, and time to plan what technology will accompany a lesson and how to guide students through the process of using that technology. Any wrinkles with using the technology will greatly distract students from the course concept at hand.

As a concrete example, community college faculty are used to explaining to students the four menus, and roughly eight steps, to visualize a function and its derivative using a calculator, which is a significant time investment. (The examples are from my own TI calculator I’ve kept all these years.)

Steps to visualize a function and its derivative using a TI calculator

It seems that most community college educators know how powerful and useful Mathematica can be to support lectures or individual student projects. But this year, more than anything else, we talked about how Mathematica 8′s new free-form input will reduce or eliminate a teacher’s preparation time and will help students who are new users access Mathematica‘s powerful functionality immediately.

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November 23, 2010 — Wolfram Blog Team

“We have a real problem with math education right now,” is how Conrad Wolfram starts his TEDGlobal 2010 talk in Oxford, in which he reasons through what’s wrong, why, and how we can fix it.

Central to Conrad’s argument is the role of calculating—that for the mainstream subject it’s not an end in itself, but a means to an end, and therefore should be wholeheartedly computer based. As he puts it, “Math ≠ Calculating, Math >> Calculating”.

He’s optimistic about what’s possible. “We have a unique opportunity to make math both more practical and more conceptual simultaneously,” and to get people to “really feel math”.

Couldn’t agree more? Dramatically disagree? Let us know.

PS: If you would like to get involved, check out and join computerbasedmath.org.

August 25, 2010 — Tasha Dunaway, Academic Marketing Coordinator

It’s back-to-school time in the U.S., and we’re starting our trips to meet with educators ranging from the high school to post-graduate level. Many schools will be hearing about Mathematica for the first time, while others have requested specialized training to expand Mathematica usage in their work and in the classroom. Several schools are taking advantage of a program created in response to a recent domestic focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education called the STEM Education Initiative.

STEM Education Initiative website

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July 20, 2010 — Andy Dorsett, Academic Account Manager

When I attended this year’s National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in San Diego, I met many “math coaches”. All teachers are coaches of their classrooms, but I’m referring to teachers whose titles are “coach”. These coaches spend time with at-risk or struggling students, trying to help the students gain further success in their education.

Coaches spend time working one on one or in small groups with these students to help them achieve a higher level of knowledge. They are looking for interactive ways to get students excited about all of their homework as well as to prepare them for standardized tests—especially in math—in new ways, relevant to the students and the topics.

However, very few of these math coaches have computer programming backgrounds. Quite often, their main technology tool has been the basic calculator. These coaches were interested in a tool that would not cost them hours of time to learn.

Insert Mathematica!

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January 28, 2010 — Craig Bauling, Academic Account Manager

Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha are revolutionizing education. Teachers and students are pretty pumped and starting to envision the possibilities. That was the chatter at our Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) 2010 booth in San Francisco this month, as we listened to Mathematica enthusiasts voice their opinions on technology and education.

The Wolfram Research Booth at JMM

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October 19, 2009 — Wolfram Blog Team

There are lots of things going on at Wolfram Research these days. October 22–24 is our annual International Mathematica User Conference, and October 21 is the first-ever Wolfram|Alpha Homework Day! Homework Day is a groundbreaking, marathon live interactive web event that brings together students, parents, and educators from across the United States to solve their toughest assignments and explore the power of using Wolfram|Alpha for school, college, and beyond. You can read more about it in the Wolfram|Alpha Blog post.

Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha are great resources for both teachers and students. Using the two together is a good way to explore topics in more depth. This video shows a few examples of how you can utilize Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha in your own classroom.

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July 2, 2009 — Scott Rauguth, Academic Marketing Manager

As a fan of cars, I find that even when I am perfectly happy with my vehicle, I check car lots and classifieds and car-dealer ads. This began in college when I had to drive a car that, let me just say, was not a high-performance vehicle. It got me from point A to point B most of the time, but it always needed work and I never knew when it would break down and leave me stranded. I always dreamed of driving a really nice automobile.

Working at Wolfram Research, I have many times heard the analogy of Mathematica as a high-performance computational engine. The high-performance phrase takes me back to cars and I wondered, what kind of car would Mathematica be? In my mind, it would clearly be something very fast that has a great engine under the hood but is easy to drive. A car I would’ve liked to have had in college. Then I thought about how many students have access to Mathematica, which is much like a college student driving a brand-new sports car. It has more than enough power for most applications, and using it can make you look good.

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June 4, 2009 — Kelvin Mischo, Sales Engineer

I just visited Washington, DC, and I find myself returning with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Did this have something to do with the progression from mild rain to what could be the first sunny, summer days of the year? Or seeing the nation’s capitol in person?

Partially, yes. But the larger factor was attending the 2009 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Conference, and, you guessed it, talking about Mathematica and mathematics education for several days!

NCTM Annual Meeting & Exposition

I’ve attended five NCTM conferences over my ten years with Wolfram Research, and I always find the teachers’ enthusiasm contagious. They constantly look for new ways to inspire their students, while at the same time building a strong foundation in mathematics. Teachers usually have clever ways to share information and spend countless hours trying new ideas and new presentation styles.

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April 28, 2009 — Kathy Bautista, Academic Program Manager

Mathematica has long been used by university-level faculty and researchers for work in math, physics, engineering, and many other fields. Good at everything from creating class documents and lab assignments to analyzing and visualizing data collected during experiments, Mathematica has become the software of choice for millions of academic researchers, faculty, and students because it is an all-in-one system that combines powerful computing and visualization capabilities with sophisticated documentation and presentation tools.

But in my years of working with universities as Wolfram Research’s Academic Program Manager, I’ve come to realize that many students who will become future high school teachers aren’t using Mathematica in their math and science education classes. Why is that? Some have told me that they heard somewhere along the line that Mathematica was too difficult to learn and use. Others had assumed that it was too powerful for their needs, or not completely applicable to the subjects they would be teaching. But those that do take a closer look at Mathematica are usually amazed by what they see.

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April 14, 2009 — Michael Morrison, Academic Relationship Executive

Each release of Mathematica brings with it powerful new tools that can be applied to an ever-widening range of fields, so it’s no surprise that a great many faculty members at all levels choose Mathematica as the tool around which to base their curricula. My first introduction to the software came during my undergraduate education when I took a differential equations course. As my professor went through the syllabus and explained what topics we would cover that semester, she also mentioned that we would be using Mathematica and showed some examples of what it could do.

Having never used mathematical technology more sophisticated than a graphing calculator, I did admittedly have a bit of a rocky start with the language and syntax. I remember my professor spending a lecture period going over the basics of how to enter input and perform computations, but I decided to dismiss all that advice and just figure it out myself—which seemed to be a good idea at the time. I probably should have paid closer attention to my professor’s tutorial, because I soon became frustrated at what seemed like a very rigid language. As I investigated further—mostly by looking at all the examples in the documentation—I quickly realized that by learning a few simple rules one could effectively harness the program and produce powerful results. Ultimately it was Mathematica‘s consistent language design that got me excited about learning more.

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