Mathcad vs Mathematica

I am thinking about a Symbolic math software product for an algebra class.  I currently use Excel, R, and SPSS for data-oriented problems.  Both are under $200 for the academic version.  Does anyone have any thoughts?  The posts I have seen indicate that Mathematica is the top product, butis  complex.  

Thanks
JDF
johnfaigAsked:
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d-glitchCommented:
Mathmatica is a wonderful product -- professional and powerful  -- also very expensive with a significan learning curve.

Mathcad started out as more of Visual Calculator and Math/Scientific Report Writer.  It has gotten more powerful and expensive over the years.

I haven't used Mathematica or Mathcad for years, though I do still have old DOS licenses for them.

The Math package I use the most and keep current licenses for is Matlab.  
It is certainly the standard for Control Systems and Signal Processing.
It has a powerful set of data analysis and graphical tools.
It is also quite expensive, but with an enormous academic discount.  
There is a symbolic math toolbox, but I have never used it.

There are free versions of Macsyma (the original symbolic math package from MIT in the 70's) available for free on-line.
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d-glitchCommented:
Other packages to consider are Maple and  IDL.  

Several of the packages are compared here:   http://amath.colorado.edu/computing/mmm/

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