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What's the Best Math Software?

  1. Oct 17, 2005 #1
    I did a search, and couldn't find this info anywhere. There are so many math software programs and I'm wondering which is the best? The ones I've looked at are: Mathematica, CalcCenter, Maple, Derive, Matlab, and Mathcad. If it helps, I am an Atmospheric Science student with the intention of minoring in Physics.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2005 #2
    depends on what you are doing.

    For Calculus mathematics, Mathematics is best.
    For Algebraic Maths, Maple is best.
  4. Oct 17, 2005 #3
    yes, it depends entirely on what you're doing and what kind of data you're working with. All the different math programs do math very well, and for fairly generic stuff either of them will do the job. Some programs do certain things better than others though.

    If you're doing a lot of symbolic stuff, then I would say go with Mathematica.

    If you lots of data you need to crunch or you're doing a lot of numeric stuff, my choice would be Matlab (or one of it's many variants such as FreeMat or Octave).

    If you're doing statistical analysis on a bunch of numbers, then I would go for something like S Plus or R.

    And the 'best math software' for one person isn't necessarily going to be the best one for you. And the best one for you now won't necessarily be the best one for you a few years down the road. Figure out what you need to do and what kind of data you're going to be working with first. Then ask about the best program for that task.
  5. Oct 19, 2005 #4


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    I absolutely agree that your selection of math software must be matched to your needs. I would recommend asking people in your field for advice because ultimately you will be collaborating with them and it becomes very difficult to to do so when you are using A and everyone else is using B.

    On a slightly different note, I would discourage reliance on computer algebra systems until you have mastered the underlying mathematics on your own. Unless you have done so you will be unable to judge whether the results you obtain are correct or make sense. Use them as a guide!

    In that regard, systems like Derive or MuPAD are great learning tools (and they are quite capable production tools too!) and cost much less than Mathematica. You will probably be disappointed in Calc Center which provides very little in terms of flexibility.
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