Physics courses at the undergraduate level involve complex mathematical computations that can overshadow the understanding of physics principles. In a transformative initiative at Scripps and Pitzer Colleges, Professor Scot Gould led the integration of Maple, advanced math software developed by Maplesoft, into an experimental firstsemester undergraduate physics course. The goal was to incorporate a tool that simplifies these computations while enhancing students' grasp of physics concepts.
Why Maple?
Maple was carefully chosen for this initiative because of several key features:

Sophisticated Problem Solving: Maple is renowned for its ability to tackle complex mathematical problems and produce enlightening visualizations, and it offers the most comprehensive support for physics of any mathematical software package currently available. As a result, not only was Maple suitable for use the introductory course, but Professor Gould knew that Maple would continue to be a useful tool as his students progressed to more advanced physics courses.
 A PrinciplesFirst Approach: Maple allows physicists to solve problems the way they think about physics, using a topdown, principlesfirst approach, instead of forcing them to approach the problem from a coding perspective. Rather than tooluse being a separate task, Maple can be used to teach and reinforce correct physics thinking at the same time it is used to aid conceptual understanding and solve problems.
 The Right Mathematics for the Job: In physics courses, sometimes the most appropriate mathematics to express a concept or solve a problem is not used because the mathematics is beyond the students’ experience. Maple allows the students to learn and apply new mathematics, such as solving sets of linked differential equations, so they can tackle problems using more advanced, mathematical tools than their math courses have covered.

Reduced Learning Curve: Unlike some popular programming languages, Maple's rich clickable interface and use of standard mathematics and physics notation results in a reduced learning curve. Since they can perform many actions without using commands, students spend less time learning the tool and more time focusing on physics concepts. As well, because Maple uses familiar notation, they can enter problems and interpret results quickly and accurately.

Presentation of Results: With Maple, students can easily present their findings through publishable graphs, animations, and "what if" applications, developing their technical communication skills.
Maple has revolutionized the way we approach physics education at Scripps and Pitzer Colleges,”
How Maple is Integrated into the Course
Initially, Maple was taught during class time, with heavy emphasis at the beginning of the semester. However, Professor Gould refined the approach over time, leading to more effective integration:
 Skillset Videos: Students gain foundational Maple skills through a series of tenminute videos accompanied by problem sets. This "justintime" approach ensures that students learn the necessary skills precisely when they are needed to solve physics problems.
 Integration with Physics Principles: Each skillset is introduced along with the relevant physics principles being studied, reinforcing the practical application of Maple within the coursework.
 Maple Worksheet Submissions: All presentations, homework and takehome exam submissions take the form of Maple worksheets, where students can combine their calculations and plots with explanations, diagrams, and interactive elements, all in a single document.
By the end of the course, it becomes the norm for students to employ Maple to enter and manipulate fundamental equations when solving physics problems. The consensus among students is that Maple allows them to focus more on understanding physics principles while spending less time on the mathematical minutiae that can often bog down such courses.
“Maple has revolutionized the way we approach physics education at Scripps and Pitzer Colleges,” said Professor Gould. “It empowers our students to delve deeper into the core concepts of physics. As an educator, my primary goal is to facilitate meaningful learning experiences, and Maple has been instrumental in achieving this. It has redefined how our students engage with and comprehend physics by offering them unprecedented opportunities for exploration, visualization, and understanding.”
The integration of Maple into universitylevel physics courses at Scripps College and Pitzer College, spearheaded by Professor Scot Gould, exemplifies the power of technology in enhancing STEM education. As these institutions continue to lead the way in innovative technical education, Maple remains a vital tool in shaping the next generation of physicists and STEM practitioners.
Contact Maplesoft to learn how Maple can be used in your classroom.