At what age/skill level should a student be given a copy of Mathematica?

I’m homework tutor/advisor for a family member. She’s 15, in 10th grade, and taking pre-calculus. I was thinking about giving her a student copy of Mathematica for Christmas, but held off when I realized it might cause her algebra skills to wither.

I am thinking it might be suitable to wait to give her a copy until either she’s: taken the SAT (in a year or two); or, admitted to college. I figure that at that point, her skills will have been sufficient that no harm would be done. Also, as she progresses in college, she won’t be getting tested on her algebra skills as much as her higher math skills. So using Mathematica to work through large algebra problems will be a net gain for her (as it was for me in grad school).

Mods, I’m assuming there’s a consensus on this subject, so I put it in GQ. If I’m wrong, feel free to move as you see fit.

I find Maple to be much more user-friendly and easier to learn than Mathematica. Mathematica has a pretty high learning curve versus the simpler point-and-click interface of Maple.

That said, college is probably a good time to introduce a CAS, although I think it also depends a lot on what major she ends up entering. Unless it’s a math/science field, I’m not sure how much benefit she’ll gain as other majors usually only require math classes up to college-level algebra or basic calculus, at which point a CAS is almost overkill or simply not very beneficial.

Give it to her whenever she wants it. I think it’ll only help aid her mathematical development, even with respect to many of the tasks it can do automatically for her. Certainly, that was my experience with such things at a young age.

just make sure to give her TI89 when she goes for Calculus AP exam :slight_smile:

If they’ll let her have it. They wouldn’t on mine–but I was allowed to use a TI-83plus. I realized that, if I’d thought ahead, I could have put a lot of programs on there that would simulate the TI-89.

Meh, I got a B, even thought I got off on the bubbles and didn’t realize it until I had finished. But, then again, I got a 30 on the math section of the ACT even though I didn’t finish all of them–I just started filling in random bubbles for the last quarter.

back in my day TI89 was allowed on parts of Calculus BC exam but, I think, prohibited from Calculus AB exam completely. I doubt things have changed a lot, and nowadays TI89 got quite a bit cheaper, especially if you buy used.

It’s also allowed on SAT and SAT2 Math, but I am not sure if I found it particularly more useful than TI83 for this purpose.