Getting Started with Mathematica
- Doing Math
- Further Reading
Mathematica is a computer program for doing mathematics. It is often used for instruction, homework, research, and writing. Mathematica is extraordinary well-rounded. It is suitable for both numeric and symbolic work, and it has remarkable word-processing capabilities as well. Mathematicians can (and often do) search for a working model, do intensive calculation, and write a dissertation on the project (including complex graphics) -- all from within Mathematica.
Its weaknesses include a somewhat steep learning curve, an interface that is difficult to use from the command line, and rather complex installation procedures.
Mathematica is more than just a program. It is an attempt to redefine the interaction between mathematician and computer. Every command, function, option, button, menu, or object in Mathematica fits into this philosophy in a standard way. In the mid-to-long term, this makes Mathematica a very easy-to-use, enjoyable tool. For the new user, Mathematica can seem opaque and threatening.
Mathematica was created by a mathematician for other mathematicians. A user of Mathematica should be comfortable dealing with abstraction, generalization, and pattern discovery. If you feel you do not fit this profile, you might want to learn Maple first.
This document is intended for new users of Mathematica. No prior math software experience is assumed, though we do point out differences between the major packages along the way. We assume you are familiar with your operating system, so we will not cover clicking, dragging, etc. Since Mathematica is quite visually oriented, we assume you will be using it on a computer with a windowing system (such as Windows, Macintosh, or X-windows). If you intend to use Mathematica from the command line, it would be best to first learn it in a graphic environment, and then learn to Use Math Software under UNIX.
We will use a few conventions throughout this document.
|File -> Open||Select Open from the File menu.|
|3,Ctl-6,5||Press 3, then hold the Control key and press 6, then press 5.|
|2+2||Input to be typed at the Mathematica prompt.|
|4||Output from Mathematica|
|An important tip.|
|A tip for Maple users.|
|A tip for Matlab users.|
Mathematica is available in all Student Technology Center labs at IUB. It is also available on the central server Quarry.
Mathematica is also available for sale in the IU Bookstore.
To start mathematica, follow these instructions.
- Unix: from a command line, type "mathematica &"
- Macintosh: Apple Menu->Stat/Math->Mathematica
|If you are using X windows and you get a stream of font errors, follow these instructions from the Knowledge Base.|
To exit Mathematica, you can:
- Choose File->Exit
- Type Quit.