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Update on Mathcad in Class - An Unexpected Win

mfrench
10-Marble

Update on Mathcad in Class - An Unexpected Win

A while back, I did a post on what software my students wanted to use in a graduate class on technical math.  They unanimously chose MATLAB over Mathcad because they perceived (correctly, I think) that MATLAB is pretty much the standard for technical computing.  I warned them that there was definitely a learning curve, but that MATLAB is extremely powerful.  At the time, they primarily valued the universality of MATLAB and weren't worried about ease of use.

Fast forward to the last exam of the semester.  I wrote the exam solution using Mathcad and it was a very simple task, but they tried to work the exam in MATLAB (it was a take home exam).  I inadvertently wrote a couple problems that were easy to solve in Mathcad, but very hard to program in MATLAB.  By the end of the week, they were in my office asking if it was alright to use Mathcad.  Basically, the ease of use won them over.  Good news, indeed.

I'm finding that the biggest practical barrier to using Mathcad in the classroom is that the free download doesn't last for a semester (four months).  I know the reduced capability version runs forever and that there is also a student version, but it it's difficult to get students to buy it.  A typical book now costs between $250 and $300 and they are becoming hesitant to buy class materials.  One of my students told me that he was trying to limit his student loans and hesitated to buy any book that costs more than $50.  I'm not sure how you make tha business model work.

1 REPLY 1

Mark French wrote:

  I'm not sure how you make tha business model work.

The answer is (was/always has been) the same way MATLAB does:  Give the student a fully functional version of the software for as long as he's a student.  Charge the company he gets hired at for his copy of the "professional" software.  My company's software manager would dearly love our engineers to switch en mass from MATLAB to Mathcad, the difference in "seat cost," is substantial, and the special libraries for MATLAB get pricey.

For PTC, Mathcad appears to be a nice "widget" to add to their 3D design suite.  The interest in competing head-to-head with MATLAB is  not there.

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