York University Professor Uses Maple to Help Students Understand the Mathematics of Business

Challenge

Eli Prisman, Professor of Finance at York University, wanted a tool to help his business students improve their grasp of mathematical concepts in finance.

Solution

Prisman adopted Maple due to its strong capabilities that made learning mathematical concepts easier and helped him better connect with his students.

Result

Students have provided strong feedback in support of Maple and engagement has improved since Prisman introduced the tool in his classroom.

Mathematics is a broad discipline that has many applications beyond science or engineering. In the business world, professionals deal with numbers and formulas on a regular basis. When training business students, especially in finance, giving them a strong background in mathematics is critical. Eli Prisman, a Professor of Finance at York University in Toronto, is a firm believer in in the importance of math in business, and adopted Maple to help his business students gain a better understanding of mathematical concepts in finance.

Prisman has been teaching at York for nearly 30 years and was responsible for developing a Financial Engineering program at the university. He recognized early on that business students had trouble with the quantitative aspect of finance. Searching for a solution that would aid him in his teaching of mathematics ultimately led him to Maple. He cites Maple’s graphic capabilities and presentation features as a strong selling point. “I like the idea that you can document work and instantly connect to computational data without moving between windows,” he said. “I also like the capability of working with a conventional computer language, where you can program your own procedure, generate modules, and more.”

Maple has helped Prisman better connect with his students, as it allows them to not only get a better feel for the materials, but also for his teaching style. He uses Maple to generate a library of material for each of his courses, which he then makes available to students to work with. He typically divides his classes between theoretical materials, followed by practical lab work. Students appreciate the format because having time to work with Maple in the lab sessions gives them the ability to work through areas of weakness without having to ask questions in front of everyone to gain understanding, Prisman said. “Each person works on their own questions and can immediately apply their theoretical knowledge and identify any problems in their understanding of the materials,” he said. “It’s a very good way to get students to actively participate.”

Prisman believes that Maple is a valuable tool because it is easy to learn and quick to perform various functions. “For basic users, you don’t want to take time away from core materials, but because Maple is so intuitive and high level, it doesn’t take much for them to learn how to work with it,” he said. “With students now being exposed to electronic devices from a young age, using a digital tool comes naturally to them. So it becomes even easier for them to use Maple. They can learn the commands and navigate quite effortlessly.”

Prisman has received positive feedback from students on his incorporation of Maple in the classroom, and how the tool makes learning much easier for them. Student feedback demonstrated that Maple is effective at allowing them to overcome mathematical difficulties, and in giving them a very good feel for what’s happening. “Using worksheets in Maple allows me to make changes to examples on the fly, and recalculate things right there in front of the class,” he said. “It gives them a great feel for the power of Maple, and they can see the impact of changing parameters on the result. It’s a great way to keep them engaged.”

Maple also prepares students for the professional world, Prisman said. “I explain to them that they will, most likely, need to use a tool like Maple for mathematical computations, and it is better they master it when they are students. I chose Maple because it has excellent capabilities and it’s easy to learn. Wherever they end up, this practice will help them learn the basic syntax and acquire the necessary knowledge.”

In addition to his teaching, Prisman has authored books on Portfolio Management, Derivative Securities, and Fixed Income Fundamentals with Maple that he uses for his courses at York.

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