Advice on computer aided calculus/physics course

Kent Reuber reuber at
Fri May 14 08:46:10 EST 1993

As part of a new initiative to increase the level of computer skills in
undergraduate biology and pre-med majors, Brandeis will be teaching an
integrated physics and calculus course. The goal is to teach calculus and
physics hand-in-hand with emphasis on skills applicable to the life
sciences while also introducing basic computer skills such as graphing
data, curve fitting, and data analysis. The course will spend one year on
mechanics and differential calculus and a second year on electricity and
magnetism and integral calculus.

Another purpose in introducing computers is to expand the capability of
students. For example, when covering the Harmonic Oscillator problem, one
usually makes the assumption of small angles so that sin x ~ x, which
results in an analytic solution. With computers, students could look at
non-ideal cases such as larger angles or systems with damping and compare
their behavior to the ideal case.

I'm interested in hearing from others who have established similar courses.
In particular:

1) What textbooks do you use?

2) What sort of mathematics or physics software is used? At this time, most
of the computers on campus are Macintoshes, though a strong PC-based
package would not be ruled out.

3) Are computers used in hands-on instruction, or are they used only for
labs and homework problems?

Thanks in advance for your response.

Kent Reuber
Computational Specialist
Brandeis University
reuber at
reuber at

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