free Mathematica substitute?

Andrew Calkin calkina at
Tue Aug 27 19:52:19 PDT 2002

On Wed, 28 Aug 2002 10:22, you wrote:
> > I'm taking a Numerical Analysis class, and my professor said that
> > we can use
> > whatever program we want to do the projects. He said that Mathematica and
> > Matlab are the more popular choices, but he said that he has had students
> > manage to do the projects with Excel.
> >
> > I would rather avoid the cost of Mathematica (even the student
> > price) if I
> > can. I'm used to programming C/C++/Java/etc., so I don't mind a
> > program that
> > requires the user to understand programming concepts. I just need
> > something
> > that will get me through both semesters of Numerical Analysis.
> > I'd also like
> > it to be able to produce some kind of graphs when applicable
> > (I've found that
> > these help me understand what's really going on in math).
> >
> > Does anyone have experience with such a program? I could search
> > freshmeat to
> > get a list, but I want to know how good the various programs really are.
> >
> > Thanks,
> > Tom Panning
> > tpanning at
> I think we're probably pushing the envelope on what constitutes BLFS
> support,
> but I use both Matlab and Mathematica very heavily.  They really aren't
> that similar, and I would say there aren't that many things that they are
> both good at.  Mathematica is essentially symbolic, Matlab is more a number
> cruncher.
> In any event, possible substitutes are Gauss and MAPLE.  I don't use either
> and I'm not sure if they are freeware, I just know a lot of people use
> them.
> BK
> Bob Kimmel
> Bendheim Center for Finance
> Department of Economics
> Princeton University
> rkimmel at

Just to note, Mathematica and Maple are symbolic in nature, and vanilla Matlab 
is a number cruncher. However, the symbolic toolbox for Matlab uses the Maple 
engine, and so it CAN be used for symbolic work as well. I don't know about 
free replacements for Mathematica and Maple (though these are available for 
linux commerically, as is Matlab), but a open source project which attempts 
to have Matlab functionality is Octave. I personally have not played with 
this yet, but i believe it is becoming quite mature.


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