The project ‘Mathematica for a non-mathematician’ by St Petersburg University Professors Nikolai Vavilov, Vladimir Khalin, and Alexander Yurkov has won in the ‘The Best Innovative Idea’ nomination in the contest of innovative projects in science and higher education in St Petersburg.


’Mathematica for a non-mathematician: an innovative approach to teaching mathematics to university and school students based on the state-of-the-art systems of symbolic computing and computer algebra' project has been developed for students of technical and humanitarian subject areas. The project enables students to master mathematical disciplines productively. Computer algebra can be of great help as it provides a system of methods that aim at developing the algorithms and software to accomplish tasks where the initial data and outcomes are in the form of mathematical expressions and formulas. These methods resemble programming in languages used for writing computer programmes. The developers of the system state that such an approach will not only ensure a better understanding of mathematical science but also add more thrill to it.

We should teach non-mathematicians differently; each subject area should have its separate course. We should teach engineers differently from economists; they both hardly need ‘higher’ mathematics we teach. 

Nikolai Vavilov, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Professor of Mathematics, the lead of the project, Director of the St Petersburg University – Huawei Joint Research Laboratory of Mathematical Problems of Multimedia Technologies

'Our project seeks to make the teaching of mathematics more interesting and present it for what it really is: an intriguing, fascinating, and vivid science woven tightly into the fabric of reality. Computers help us do so,' said Nikolai Vavilov, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, Director of the St Petersburg University – Huawei Joint Laboratory of Mathematical Problems of Multimedia Technologies.

The project implies accomplishing two tasks. Number one is designing a teaching course. Number two is designing a textbook developed with support from the Vladimir Potanin Foundation. It is available for free as a courtesy from the Moscow Centre of Continuous Mathematical Education.

The Committee of Science and Higher Education of St Petersburg has been holding the contest of innovative projects in science and higher education since 2007. Developers or developing teams from universities, research organisations, and innovatively active entities from St Petersburg take part in it.

This year, 53 applications from 33 organisations were submitted within the following nominations: ‘The Best Innovative Idea’, ‘The Best Innovative Business Initiative’, and ‘The Best Innovative Project’.

Daniil Apleev, a St Petersburg University alumnus, who underwent the course based on this textbook, said that ‘Mathematica for a non-mathematician’ is the only university book he refers to from time to time after ten years from his graduation.

Today, teachers from other universities can undergo training courses to master the method. So, in December 2020, the Graduate School of Management with the Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science organised the school for the teaching staff from universities in St Petersburg and the Northwestern Federal District. Along with the training, issues of mathematical education modernisation received close attention.