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HS setting: Mathematica vs Maple vs?

  1. Jan 12, 2007 #1
    I'm wondering what your opinions are concerning Mathematica and Maple. I'm about to order one or the other for my calculus class (in a high school, college credit/level class). I'm anticipating on getting students at least somewhat familiar with what software will do. I'm also planning on using the software to help model problems for algebra/geometry.

    I used Mathematica frequently and was very familiar with it about 6-8 years ago, but haven't spent much time on it since.

    Because I was "brought up on" Mathematica, it tends to skew my opinion. I've never even touched Maple. However, I'm asking - is my familiarity with mathematica enough to make it the software of choice for my classes? Or would perhaps Maple or some other package be better? (Resulting in some sort of learning curve for me - not that I'm afraid to learn it; but I don't hesitate to believe I can create a ton of animations that would facilitate my lower ability math students gaining some conceptual understanding of what most of us would probably consider simple topics.)

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2007 #2
    The only advantage of Maple over Mathematica is that the default look of Maple is prettier. If you wanted something that the students could use, try MathCAD (prettier then Maple, slightly less functionalality for simpler interface). If you are interested in doing presentations for the students, use Mathematica because, if for no other reason then that your old knowledge is not obsolete.
  4. Jan 16, 2007 #3

    Chris Hillman

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    Science Advisor

    Not the only advantage

    Maple and Mathematica are "serious competitors", in the sense that either is favored by particular considerations. Many researchers do seem to prefer Mathematica because (at least in my experience) it can produce slicker looking embedded postscript figures for inclusion in papers. OTH, Maple syntax is IMO much easier to remember and less "clunky" that Mathematica (although Maple is not without oddities of its own), in part because its syntax is generally closer to other languages your students might have encountered, and this might be a more important criterion for you.

    Both systems share may common features which are useful for students and teachers (as well as researchers), like "notebooks". Both are extremely capable, offering powerful computational techniques for symbolic integration, solution of (systems of) (partial/ordinary) differential equations, linear algebra, and more advanced topics like computing directly with ideals or geometric objects (tensor calculus).

    Obviously, I realize that few HS students will be interested in those topics right now, but in a few years this might change! Also, Maple (and, I imagine, Mathematica) does offer some interesting things which can be grasped by HS students, like Sturm's method for determining the disposition of the real roots of polynomials (as accurately as desired, by "trapping" them inside specified intervals).

    For more advanced readers facing the same choice: another thing to consider is what packages are available for Mathematica and Maple. Depending on your interests, this could make your choice a "no brainer".
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2007
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