Date: May 15, 2013 2:53 AM Author: Murray Eisenberg Subject: Re: Work on Basic Mathematica Stephen! As I already wrote, "Whether [the training wheels] has the intended effect is a separate question." That's an empirical question to be decided by experience of new learners and teachers of new learners.

Meanwhile, an experienced user can turn off the doo-dads.

On May 13, 2013, at 4:46 PM, djmpark <djmpark@comcast.net> wrote:

> I don't believe the "training wheels" model can really achieve the

> objective. Are these people preschoolers? The situation is rather something

> like this. Suppose all education was conducted orally until the junior year

> in college. No or little writing. Then the students are to get into some

> serious writing work. They are to write a critique of Marcel Proust's

> Remembrance of Things Past. They do get some powerful tools to do this: a

> computer with Microsoft Word, which has spell checking and some passable

> syntax and grammar checking; a dictionary and French/English lexicon, and

> French and English versions of Proust's work and maybe a couple grammars.

> And since the students have never written much before, Word has been

> augmented with training wheels. A little button always appears at the start

> of a new paragraph with choices 1) Would you like to type a new sentence? 2)

> Would you like to enter a sentence in free spoken form? 3) Would you like

> Literary|Alpha to search for ideas on some topic? 4) Would you like to start

> a new Section? At the end of a paragraph a Suggestions box will appear with

> something like "Would you like us to add a sentence on Marcel's health

> problems in relation to the topic?" Gee, I never thought about health

> problems. So nice to remind me of that. Several weeks of this and they

> should be up to speed.

>

> Do you believe that method would achieve some worthwhile objective? Isn't it

> rather that it usually takes years for a student to become really good at

> expressing and manipulating ideas in written form? It's not surprising that

> some students, without much experience, would become terrified at a blank

> sheet of paper. Now add in mathematics and all of the new active and

> dynamical possibilities for expressing and manipulating mathematical ideas

> and don't we have a considerably greater learned skill? You can't replace

> extended education and practice by software. It's the failure to get

> Mathematica into early education that is the problem and getting it there is

> the remedy.. ..

>

>

> From: Murray Eisenberg [mailto:murray@math.umass.edu]

>

> Re "clean" notebook interface:

>

> An experienced Mathematica user might well prefer a totally clean notebook

> as starting point for some work. But a new user, or potential new customer,

> might well panic at an essentially blank window. (The faint horizontal line

> with it's "+" icon at the top of a new notebook window is at least a

> starting point.

>

> Similarly for once the new user has typed and possibly evaluated some input:

> what should go there? what's the correct form? what can I do with it? So WRI

> has attempted to provide some guidance directly in the notebook, outside the

> Documentation Center. (Whether it has the intended effect is a separate

> question.)

>

> For example, suppose the new user, or somebody just trying out Mathematica,

> successfully types and evaluates:

>

> Plot[Exp[-x] Cos[x], {x, -Pi/2, Pi/2}]

>

> And possibly (probably?) the user wants to enhance the graph. How do that?

> Well, the Next-computation Suggestions Bar provides an immediate and obvious

> way to approach it -- without having to look up Plot, wade through the long

> list of Options.

>

> I write the above as somebody who has helped hundreds of university students

> learn Mathematica and who realizes how much more efficient the learning

> would have been over the years had such front end doo-dads been available.

> They're like bicycle training wheels: they can help you get started, but you

> can get rid of them when they get in the way.. ..

>

---

Murray Eisenberg murray@math.umass.edu

Mathematics & Statistics Dept.

Lederle Graduate Research Tower phone 413 549-1020 (H)

University of Massachusetts 413 545-2838 (W)

710 North Pleasant Street fax 413 545-1801

Amherst, MA 01003-9305