# Best mathematic software?

1. Jan 7, 2006

### Nothing000

I am thinking about purchasing some math software so I can get a better understanding of the math I am learning. I will use it for my calculus 2 class, but once I am done with calculus I will surely use it for my Diff E, Linear Algebra, and Complex Variables classes too. Which program would you recomend from the following list:
MatLab
Mathematica
Maple
Derive

2. Jan 7, 2006

### Tide

First, there is no such thing as "the best." Your selection should be based on your requirements and budget. The first three on your list are outrageously expensive. Derive is quite capable and low cost. You should also consider MuPAD Pro which is very powerful and has quite versatile graphics.

In any case, use whatever program you decide on in a strictly ancillary capacity. The real learning occurs between your ears and overreliance on computer systems will stifle and not help in that endeavor.

3. Jan 7, 2006

Mathematica is not that expensive. They sell it to students at my school for about $130. That is the one I am leaning toward. 4. Jan 7, 2006 ### shmoe Student version of maple is about$100 US, I think mathematica and matlab are in this range, so not too bad. I'm partial to maple, but that's based on familiarity. Are any of these available on computers at your school? You might want to try them out before you buy.

Do listen to Tide, computer software is only a supplement to the real learning.

5. Jan 7, 2006

### Nothing000

Supplement? Yeah righ! I plan on the software doing my homework and learning for me.
Seriously though, I am pretty dedicated to actually learning the math I am learning. And I just would like something on my computer that is colorful and fun to play with that I can use to visualize some of the math I am learning. I get sick of looking at the screen of my TI-89.
And yes, we do have a computer lab in the math dept. And now that I think about it they have all of these programs. I completely forgot about that. I have never been there, but my professors have talked about it. I will just go over there and play around with each of them. That was an excellent idea. Thanks.
Does anyone else have a reason why one of these is better than the rest that I would not notice by playing with each of them?

Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
6. Jan 7, 2006

### shmoe

It wasn't at all an accusation! Just a general warning. I've seen too many student get reliant on software for graphing things (for example) that they end up with absolutely no intuition at all and can't handle basic problems with pencil and paper. Your goal of actually learning the math is the one to have , and software can be a great tool to this end!

7. Jan 7, 2006

Thats cool.

8. Jan 7, 2006

### leon1127

I have heard that if you are doing some pure mathematical work, Mathematica is better. Maple has better interface. Matlab is the best for simulation and applied Maths.

But again, this is what i have heard. I have been using Mathematica to do my homework and it works just fine.

9. Jan 7, 2006

### chroot

Staff Emeritus
For the simple purposes of doing relatively basic undergraduate math and visualization, any of the programs will work. Only when you get to more challenging tasks do the programs each begin to show different weaknesses.

- Warren

10. Jan 7, 2006

### neurocomp2003

yay for matlab and its infinite for loops =]

I used maple for Math/Physics
and matlab for math/psych.

Didn't really like mathematicas GUI.

11. Jan 8, 2006

### Nothing000

How do you use Matlab for physchology?

12. Jan 8, 2006

### leon1127

My guess is stat?

13. Jan 8, 2006

### Tide

That's probably true but I think they'd find something like R or S-Plus to be more suitable.

14. Jan 8, 2006

### Demian^^

I've been using Maple for subjects like calculus and algebra and it has proven to be quite reliable and versatile. I also use MATLAB extensively, but solely for numerical purposes.. if it's analytical solutions you want (and I expect you do), I'd go for Maple. Never worked with Mathematica or Derive, so can't tell you anything about those.

15. Jan 8, 2006

### Maxwell

I love Matlab. I think it's better suited for engineering work than Mathematica or Maple.

Then again, it's all up to preference. The DSP toolbox for Matlab has been invaluable for me.

16. Jan 8, 2006

### neurocomp2003

LOL no i didn't use matlab for stats purpose in psychology...There are more math fields in psych then just stats...ONE NOTABLE, probably the most known is neural nets. I used matlab for simulations purposes and VR.

you can do analytical stuff in matlab...its all about knowing how to write scripts...I walked by a profs office and he was working on stuff like that...he was kind enough to give me a run through of how but i've forgotten it since.

17. Jan 9, 2006

### franznietzsche

I've used both Matlab and Maple, and personally I really prefer Matlab. I use it for all of my "lightweight" work (anything where the speed increase of an F90 code is not worth the effort of an F90 code).

18. Jan 10, 2006

### saltydog

I'm a big proponent of Mathematica and so requests the updates for free. They ignore me. Don't know about the other programs but recently I worked on this PDE (alright, that one down there, whatever):

$$x\frac{\partial u}{\partial x}-y\frac{\partial u}{\partial y}+u=x$$

so I get the solution:

$$u(x,y)=\frac{x}{2}+\frac{1}{x}K(xy)$$

where K(xy) is an arbitrary function of xy.

But suppose this was only a small part of a larger problem. Would be nice to make sure it's right so far. Well I could have back-substituted to check it but that just takes more time. I just entered the following code into Mathematica:

Code (Text):

$$u[x,y]=\frac{x}{2}+\frac{1}{x} K(x\;y)$$

$$x\partial_x u[x,y]-y\partial_y u[x,y]+u[x,y]==x\text{//Simplify}$$

Mathematica does all the checking and if correct says TRUE.

My point is that in complex problems, using software this way helps you to gradually build up a correct solution path towards the right answer:

You mentioned Complex Analysis. I recently worked on a difficult contour integral which I knew already what the answer should be (getting the answer wasn't the point, do I need to explain that?). Anyway, the integrals (6) were very difficult for me to evaluate and very messy. However, I was able to use Matheamtica to check each step of my work and in this way identified the steps I was making errors. Knowing what you've done so far is correct allows the rest of the problem the chance to be correct as well.

Last edited: Jan 10, 2006
19. Jan 10, 2006

### BobG

Does your school push one of the programs? Many like to introduce their students to the idea of using math software and either require it or at least highly encourage it for some of the assignments. If each professor pushes their own favorite, life becomes a little unpleasant for the poor students that have to master all of the math software packages. A lot of schools will try to enforce some standardization and encourage their instructors to all push the same program. It's easier for the student to learn and cheaper to purchase one program for home use than several.

20. Jan 11, 2006

### shmoe

BobG just reminded me of something I saw recently. Maple at least has something called a product adoption plan. By signing up for this program, professors can give students an added incentive to purchase maple with a reduced price. You might want to ask around if your department does anything like this.