This book teaches students of chemistry how to use two popular symbolic mathematics engines to solve problems, build models, analyze data, and explore fundamental chemistry concepts. There is a strong focus on the analysis of experimental data obtained in a laboratory setting, fitting of data and modeling experiments, with a wide variety of examples and applications in physical chemistry, quantitative analysis, and instrumental techniques.
The book is organized around a series of worksheets; each worksheet will be prepared in both MathCAD and Maxima so that students can select their program of choice. The worksheets themselves are not printed in their entirety in the book; they will be provided on a companion website, along with instructor keys and printable PDF and TeX versions of the files.
Each worksheet begins with clearly defined goals and learning objectives, along with a detailed abstract that provides motivation and context for the material. The worksheets are not computer programs; they do not simply plot a graph or print the answer for a textbook problem. Instead each worksheet is a cohesive and complete guided inquiry that uses symbolic math to illuminate a key topic in chemistry. They will engage students directly by asking them to write symbolic mathematics themselves at crucial points throughout the worksheet. Rather than asking students to simply tweak the values of a few variables and observe the effect on a calculated result or graph, the focus is on critical thinking, creative problem solving, and the ability to connect concepts.
Students will have different levels of comfort with symbolic math, and the worksheets are designed with this in mind. Step-by-step instructions and clear, detailed examples are given for beginners. Troubleshooting hints and case studies provide practical experience and foster critical thinking for those who have mastered the basics. Proficient users are offered avenues for further exploration.
Each worksheet ends with two activities (i) A summary activity asks students to integrate the ideas and techniques presented; (ii) An activity for further exploration is aimed at proficient users. It offers new contexts for application of what’s been learned, along with a bibliography for more advanced study. The exploration activity guides students through the process of creating symbolic mathematics worksheets of their own.