Monday, March 11, 2013

Math with Computers

Last month I posted a link to Conrad Wolfram's Ted Talk when he argues that we waste time teaching students to calculate when we should be teaching them how to look at, think about, and solve problems mathematically. Wolfram and his allies are working toward this goal. For more, see the website

The Resources page links to more videos, news coverage, and some "explorations" (e.g., an essay explaining how a mathematician used computational techniques to figure out Hangman).

The Wolfram Demonstrations Project has thousands of examples of graphical depictions of problems.

screenshot from Wolfram Demonstrations homepage

In the list of topics, you find math, technology, economics, geography, and more. I chose "Kids & Fun" and then clicked on "Everyday Life."

The demonstration called "Blue Sky and Red Sunset" shows how the angle of the sun's rays changes the color of the sky.  You move the slider to change the angle and you see the colors change.

Blue Sky and Red Sunset screenshots

In the math section, I found this interactive demonstration showing the graphs of the derivatives of trigonometric functions:

Derivatives of Trig and Hyperbolic Functions screen shot
 It has been a very long time since I took calculus, but I suspect that being able to see the changes in the graphs would help a student see the relations among the functions.

There are over 200 puzzles.

To be able to interact with the demonstrations, you need to download Wolfram's free CDF (Computable Document Format) Player.

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