Q&A

Q&A for Students

Q&A for Educators

How does the Wolfram Language compare to Scratch?

Scratch is a simple, visually based language successful with young children. The Wolfram Language is textually based and vastly more powerful. It's a great next step for students after Scratch—but then it keeps going all the way to professional programming and the frontiers of research and industry.

How does the Wolfram Language compare to Java, C++, and Python?

It's based on a fundamentally different approach, in which the language automates as much as possible, and builds in as much knowledge as possible. This allows the Wolfram Language to be vastly more powerful while being much easier to use—because repetitive programming tasks have been automated away.

How easy is the Wolfram Language for students to learn?

Most students are almost immediately able to modify existing Wolfram Language code, and then quickly learn to create code from scratch. Particularly important is the overall coherence of the language design, as well as the easy-to-read English-language-based names of functions in the language.

What is debugging like in the Wolfram Language?

It's typically much easier than in other languages, because the Wolfram Language is symbolic, so any fragment of code is immediately meaningful, and able to be tested on its own.

Will the Wolfram Language help students learn other computer languages?

Yes. The language exposes students to a very broad range of computer science and programming concepts—which they can then apply to learning other languages, even if these other languages will look rather primitive compared to the Wolfram Language.

How does the Wolfram Language teach low-level computer concepts?

The Wolfram Language is a very high-level language set up so you don't have to think about machine data types, pointers, memory allocation, etc. But if you want to, you can still see most of these concepts at work—with great clarity added by the symbolic structure of the language, and immediate visualization capabilities.

How does Wolfram Programming Lab relate to AP Computer Science?

The AP Computer Science test is currently in Java. However, the Wolfram Language provides a powerful environment for students to learn underlying concepts, with instant visualization and vastly simpler debugging.

How long does it take to learn the whole Wolfram Language?

Basically, forever. The goal of the language is to include as much knowledge as possible, so learning the whole Wolfram Language is like learning every conceivable field. The basic principles of the Wolfram Language, however, can be learned quickly. Learning the full principles is like learning a significant part of modern computer science.

How does the Wolfram Language relate to Mathematica?

If your students learn the Wolfram Language, they'll also be learning to use Mathematica—which is today the tool of choice for math and other technical courses at most universities. Historically, the Wolfram Language evolved from 25+ years of development in Mathematica.

How does the Wolfram Language relate to Wolfram|Alpha?

Internally, Wolfram|Alpha is written in the Wolfram Language. The Wolfram Language also makes use of the Wolfram Knowledgebase and Wolfram Natural Language Understanding System, both of which were developed for Wolfram|Alpha.

Practicalities

Do I need to install software to run Wolfram Programming Lab?

No. There's a version of Wolfram Programming Lab that runs purely in a web browser, using the Wolfram Cloud, and requires no software installation of any kind.

Can I run Wolfram Programming Lab offline?

Yes, except when it needs data or natural language understanding. There's a version of Wolfram Programming Lab that runs offline on Wolfram Desktop—on Mac, Windows, and Linux systems—accessing the cloud only when it needs data and natural language understanding services.

Can I try Wolfram Programming Lab for free?

Yes. You can both edit existing Explorations and create small programs of your own.

Can students use Wolfram Programming Lab at home?

Yes, using any device that can access the web. To connect to files used at school requires a login, and appropriate licensing. The desktop version of Wolfram Programming Lab is also available to students at schools with appropriate licensing.

What kind of computer is needed to run Wolfram Programming Lab?

For the web version, you just need to be able to run a web browser. For the desktop version, any Windows, Mac, or Linux machine with at least a gigabyte of RAM should work.

Can students use Wolfram Programming Lab on mobile devices?

Currently Wolfram Programming Lab can be used through a web browser on mobile devices. Native versions are planned.

Is there a showcase of student work with Wolfram Programming Lab?

Students are encouraged to post their creations on Wolfram Community to share with the world.

Does Wolfram Programming Lab include the full Wolfram Language?

Yes. The exact same Wolfram Language used by researchers and software developers all over the world.

What version of Wolfram Programming Lab should I get as an educator?

As you incorporate Wolfram Programming Lab into your classroom more your needs may change. Initially we invite you to check out the Explorations, just by signing up for a free account. When you're ready to start creating your own content with the Wolfram Language you'll want to upgrade to a Premium account. This gives you access to the Wolfram Desktop and lets you create and save as many files as you want. It also comes with enhanced technical support options, and the ability to manage separate groups of students is coming soon.

I have students who are very interested in the Wolfram Language. What can they do to go further with the language?

There are many resources available for interested students. They could apply to one of the Wolfram Summer Programs, sign up to be a student ambassador, publish their work on the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, or get certified through the Mathematica Student Certification Program.

Does Wolfram store student information?

If Wolfram Programming Lab is used through the web, all user files and information are stored in the Wolfram Cloud, subject to its standard Privacy Policy. If a desktop version of Wolfram Programming Lab is used, only certain requests require cloud access. A Wolfram Private Cloud allows private use of Wolfram Programming Lab in the cloud.

Pedagogy

Does Wolfram Programming Lab include curriculum material?

Wolfram Programming Lab has a growing library of Explorations covering many different areas. With Wolfram Programming Lab it's possible to have much broader computation education than before—for which full curricula are just starting to be built.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used without teacher supervision?

Yes. There's a growing collection of prebuilt Explorations suitable for independent study.

At what age can students use Wolfram Programming Lab?

Use typically starts between ages 10 and 12. It's a deep and broad system that's useful all the way to professional careers. The Wolfram Language is also well suited to mature learners.

Does Wolfram Programming Lab include assessment?

The Explorations are designed to be exploratory and self-guided. If you're looking for a more traditional course that teaches the Wolfram Language, An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language offers numerous tutorials and traditional assessment.

Where can I find volunteers who know the Wolfram Language?

Millions of technical professionals have been exposed to Mathematica—a direct precursor of the Wolfram Language—and they are often passionate about the system. Visit Wolfram Community to find Wolfram Language users in your area.

How much math do students need for Wolfram Programming Lab?

They need almost none. But with the deep mathematical capabilities of the Wolfram Language, it's easy for students to get practical exposure to large amounts of math, both as traditionally taught, and not.

Are there textbooks to accompany the Wolfram Language?

Yes, there are! An Elementary Introduction to the Wolfram Language provides a structured course to the Wolfram Language and is available in print, on the web, and even built directly into Wolfram Programming Lab. For students with a slightly more advanced math background, there is also Hands-on Start to Wolfram Mathematica and Programming with the Wolfram Language.

What about students whose first language isn't English?

Code captions are available in both the cloud and desktop products to help non-English speakers understand Wolfram Language code.

Uses

Can students create websites and apps with Wolfram Programming Lab?

The technology of Wolfram Programming Lab is incredibly powerful at creating websites and apps. Some of the necessary access to the Wolfram Cloud is free with Wolfram Programming Lab. If students want to operate the next Facebook, though, they'll have to purchase a lot of additional Wolfram Cloud Credits.

Can students make games with Wolfram Programming Lab?

Immediately, yes, for "abstract" games like Tetris or Sudoku. It's also great for teaching underlying algorithmic principles of games. But for games based on realistic 3D worlds, you'll need to connect to a system like Unity3D, using for example the Wolfram Engine for Unity3D.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used to teach math?

Definitely. Although other Wolfram products, such as Mathematica Online and Wolfram|Alpha Pro, are more specifically intended for this.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used to teach computer science?

Absolutely. It's an ideal environment in which to teach concepts and practices of computer science at all levels.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used to introduce data science?

Definitely. The Wolfram Language is an ideal tool for data science at all levels. And all the real-world data included in the language provides ideal material for data science exercises and explorations.

How does Wolfram Programming Lab relate to Raspberry Pi?

Wolfram Programming Lab includes a Remote Development Kit suitable for creating programs for Raspberry Pi. It can also connect to any networked Raspberry Pi, and operate the bundled version of the Wolfram Language on the Pi.

How does Wolfram Programming Lab connect to robotics?

Wolfram Programming Lab provides a great way to understand the principles of robotics, as well as to create code that can be used for robots. The desktop version allows direct connection to external devices. Wolfram Programming Lab can also be used to create autonomous Wolfram Language code for Raspberry Pi computers suitable for inclusion in robots.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used for experimental science?

Yes. It's a world-class system for data analysis and visualization, as well as modeling and simulation. The desktop version also allows direct connection to external measuring devices. Both desktop and cloud versions can connect to Raspberry Pi computers suitable for data collection and experimental control.

Does Wolfram Programming Lab support art-oriented activities?

Yes. The built-in graphics and sound capabilities of the Wolfram Language make it easy for students to do art-oriented projects. The Wolfram Language is widely used by professional artists, architects, and designers. Some Explorations specifically cover algorithmic art and design.

How does Wolfram Programming Lab connect to 3D printing?

Wolfram Programming Lab can create 3D geometries and export them in standard formats for 3D printing. The Wolfram Language provides built-in support for 3D scanners and printers, allowing you to bring life to your 3D creations. Check out this webcast for more information. Soon there will be Explorations that specifically cover 3D object creation, manipulation and printing.

Can Wolfram Programming Lab be used in elementary school?

Custom Wolfram Language programming may be difficult. But prebuilt interactive explorations—often using visualization—can be immediately engaging, and provide an easy way to initiate hands-on programming experience.

How does Wolfram Programming Lab relate to Computer-Based Math?

They're different initiatives, but Wolfram Programming Lab supports the concepts of computer-based math—letting students write and run programs that can be used to learn and explore math with the Wolfram Language.