[SciPy-user] Matlab, Scipy and teaching science

Steven H. Rogers steve at shrogers.com
Fri Oct 21 07:06:06 CDT 2005

I was a Physics undergrad, and my two cents is that programming is just as 
important as calculus for a 21st century Physics graduate.  When I was a 
frsshman, we learned calculus as part of our introductory Physics course 
despite taking a calculus course concurrently from the Math department 
because we needed to use techniques that came later in the Math course.  I 
think Programming should be given similar treatement.  It's useful for 
teaching critical, logical thought in addition to producing nice tables and 
graphs of results.


Peter Bowyer wrote:
> At 19:13 20/10/2005, Perry Greenfield wrote:
>>The problem I have with this is that your goals seem murky. Is the
>>choice centered around what is most effective to teach Physics students
>>how to program (as your opening suggest). Or what they think will be
>>most useful to them in their career? Or which you think will irritate
>>them least with regard to installation or cost? Or something else?
> The short answer is that I don't know.
> The long answer is that this is another goal of the project: to 
> decide whether programming should be taught to physics 
> undergraduates; if so how much should be and when and in what 
> form.  At present it is not clear whether this has to fit within the 
> departmental course structure and time-tabling (the current 
> introductory course has got squeezed shorter and shorter) or whether 
> I can propose a totally different course.  As the optional 3rd year 
> computational physics course uses the programming from the 
> introductory course, whatever changes I make will affect the latter 
> course.  And should we be teaching all physics students to program 
> (instead of just those who do the computational physics course) - in 
> fact why not teach them how to plot graphs and analyse data instead, 
> skills they'll use in the 2nd and 3rd year laboratories?
> At this point the project really goes back to the question of "What 
> should the point of a Physics degree be?".  What are we trying to 
> create in the students - future researchers, numerically literate 
> people to fill jobs, people with broad thinking?  This question will 
> have to be addressed to some extent by the project, as it will shape 
> the direction of the course.
> In the end the project will be what I define it to be, and I am 
> leaning to the first goal (what is most effective to teach Physics 
> students how to program).
>>Who is deciding? You? Your advisor?
> I am, although I have been advised that whatever solution I propose, 
> a version that fits within departmental constraints would be appropriate.
> Peter
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Steven H. Rogers, Ph.D., steve at shrogers.com
Weblog: http://shrogers.com/weblog
"He who refuses to do arithmetic is doomed to talk nonsense."
-- John McCarthy

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