Python recently became very popular. It can do pretty much everything. The language is very slow but extensions can be fast because their implementation can be done in C++. Python is also very popular at schools as mentioned in this paper: Python is Now the Most Popular Introductory Teaching Language at Top U.S. Universities. This page also references many schools using Python: Schools using Python.
It might be difficult to find a perfect setup for your own use. There are usually many libraries doing the same thing. If you do not know Python, it might be difficult to navigate through the big repository pypi. However, there exists distribution which does everything for you: WinPython. We can argue R is a better fit or Julia might be easier to start with. However, I think there are two reasons why Python is a good choice: