The syntax used in Mathematica is designed to be consistent and efficient. The syntax is consistent with that found in mathematics, science and engineering. Confusing and ambiguous syntax is necessarily removed from the language.
For example, many mathematics books loosely use parentheses for both functional input and grouping of terms. This can be confusing since often input to functions can also be functions. In Mathematica, functional input is denoted by square brackets and parentheses are used for grouping terms.
Similarly, Mathematica distinguishes between the various uses of the equal sign. In Mathematics books, this is again often ambiguous and confusing. For example, the following is used in many math books to define a function:
ƒ(x) = 3x + 1
The same math book might use the equal sign to assign equality, however:
3x + 1 = 2
These are two different uses of the equal sign!
In Mathematica, assigning value would be denoted:
ƒ[x] = 3x + 1
Whereas determining equality would use two equal signs:
3x + 1 == 2
In general, to use Mathematica, students must understand the concept of functions and of substitution. Many Mathable problems involve copying, pasting and editing. In order to edit, the student must understand the concept of substitution, in many cases as the input to a function.