03 April 2009

Why We Should Teach Maths with Open Source

Recently, I was writing about science and open source (of which more anon); here are some thoughts on why maths ought to be taught using free software:

I personally feel it is terrible to *train* students mainly to use closed source commercial mathematics software. This is analogous to teaching students some weird version of linear algebra or calculus where they have to pay a license fee each time they use the fundamental theorem of calculus or compute a determinant. Using closed software is also analogous to teaching those enthusiastic students who want to learn the proofs behind theorems that it is illegal to do so (just as it is literally illegal to learn *exactly* how Maple and Mathematica work!). From a purely practical perspective, getting access to commercial math software is very frustrating for many students. It should be clear that I am against teaching mathematics using closed source commercial software.

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Anonymous said...

I sooo agree.

Glyn Moody said...

You're obviously a deeply wise individual.

Anonymous said...

But what if the commercial software offers a quicker path to enlightenment i.e. it's just better?

Glyn Moody said...

Well, by definition, it wouldn't be *true* enlightenment, because you're dealing with a black box: you can't understand how it achieved the result it did. You can only hope that it's right.