Detailed Description

The purpose of this module is to familiarize you with the basics of Mathematica programming and its use for generating technology-based classroom materials and demonstrations as well as student tutorials and laboratories.

Mathematica is a very powerful software package that allows you to do complicated numerical calculations, produce and animate beautiful and precise graphical displays, perform messy algebraic and analytic manipulations as well as to do technical word processing. Moreover, all of these capabilities can be used in a single environment called a Mathematica notebook that can be used interactively as an electronic student tutorial, a classroom computer demonstration, or that can be printed as overhead transparency masters or text supplements for special classroom units. As such, it has the power to change the way you teach and the way your students learn mathematics.

To be able to use Mathematica effectively for the above purposes, you need not be an expert Mathematica programmer. It is not necessary or even advisable to study a detailed guide to Mathematica programming such as Mathematica by Stephen Wolfram (Addison-Wesley, 1996) or any less ambitious Mathematica programming guide. Rather, we have found that a mathematics teacher who is a raw beginner with Mathematica can learn to use Mathematica more effectively and quickly with a training program that is structured as follows:

  • Step 1: Begin by getting a general idea of some of the things that Mathematica can do by looking at and running some short and simple prepared Mathematica programs that do things that are related to high school mathematics.
  • Step 2: Learn a few basic facts about Mathematica syntax to help you to avoid mistakes when you begin writing your own Mathematica programs. (You will still make simple mistakes that are annoying but this step will help to reduce the number of mistakes. It will also help you find and correct the ones that do occur.)
  • Step 3: Write some very simple programs to do things that would be useful to you in one of your current classes. Often, you can do this by suitably modifying some program that you have seen in Steps 1 or 2.
  • Step 4: Learn how to do some basic procedures that are common ingredients to many classroom projects created with Mathematica such as: writing and displaying text and formulas attractively, creating and running animations, creating lists and tables, entering and using functions, and enhancing graphics so that they are more attractive and informative.
  • Step 5: Select and begin a classroom project that you would like to do for one of the classes that you teach. We will provide you with a file that contains many such projects that have been done by high school mathematics teachers who were Mathematica beginners just a few days before they prepared these projects. You can use these sample projects as a souce of ideas for your own project. You can also use these sample projects as a source of Mathematica programs that you can copy and modify to suit your own purposes.

That's it! All of the ingredients necessary to complete these steps are contained in the files that you will download for this module after you complete your registration. Moreover, you can get help when you need it by e-mail or phone from our staff. The Step-By-Step Instructions button below will explain exactly what you need to do to complete this module.