[Tutor] Python for Grade 12 Calculus

Steven D'Aprano steve at pearwood.info
Thu Feb 11 19:28:57 EST 2016

On Thu, Feb 11, 2016 at 05:56:00PM -0500, Nicholas Tomasic wrote:
> Hi,
> I'm a 12th grade Calculus teacher at a school in Toronto, Ontario, and I'm
> thinking about incorporating Python into an Independent Study Project for
> two of my students. Both are passionate about coding with Python and I'm
> thinking of asking them to produce something that can either a) calculate
> derivatives of simple functions or b) assign 1 student the product rule,
> one the quotient rule, and have them write a program that can tackle
> derivatives in those forms.

Sounds like a very reasonable project.

An alternative is to give them a project to work with SymPy, which is a 
symbolic algebra package for Python. I presume that Yr 12 students have 
access to CAS calculators in Canada, is that right? Perhaps you could 
get them to write a comparison between the differentiation capabilites 
of their CAS and that of SymPy. The advantage to *you* is that this 
doesn't require any programming skill on your part, since your students 
will be submitting an essay rather than a computer program you will need 
to judge.

Another idea might be to get them to write a small program that randomly 
generates a simple polynomial, asks the user to differentiate it, and 
then checks their answer against what SymPy calculates.


> The problem is: I know very little about Python.

That would be a problem :-)

Do you have any programming experience at all? If it's just a matter 
that you aren't familiar with Python, I can suggest running through a 
tutorial or two, and then asking questions here.

If you have no programming experience at all, this may be a bit hard on 
you, since your students will know more about programming than you.


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