From Introduction to Programming with Mathematica, Third Edition

Mathematica is a very large and seemingly complex system. It contains hundreds of functions for performing various tasks in science, mathematics, and engineering, including computing, programming, data analysis, knowledge representation, and visualization of information. In this introductory chapter, we introduce the elementary operations in Mathematica and give a sense of its computational and programming breadth and depth. In addition, we give some basic information that users of Mathematica need to know, such as how to start Mathematica, how to get out of it, how to enter simple inputs and get answers, and finally how to use Mathematica's documentation to get answers to questions about the system.

1.1 A brief overview of Mathematica

Numerical computations

Mathematica has been aptly described as a sophisticated calculator. With it you can enter mathematical expressions and compute their values.

You can store values in memory.

    <i class="emphasis">In[2]:=</i> <b class="bold">rent = 350</b>    <i class="emphasis">Out[2]=</i> 350    <i class="emphasis">In[3]:=</i> <b class="bold">food =175</b>    <i class="emphasis">Out[3]=</i> 175    <i class="emphasis">In[4]:=</i> <b class="bold">heat = 83</b>    <i class="emphasis">Out[4]=</i> 83<a name="26"></a><a name="page2"></a>    <i class="emphasis">In[5]:=</i> <b class="bold">rent + food + heat</b>    <i class="emphasis">Out[5]=</i> 608

Yet Mathematica differs from calculators and simple computer programs in its ability to calculate exact results and to compute to an arbitrary degree of precision.

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Topics of Interest

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