Wolfram Alpha

Overview

Wolfram Alpha is a computational search engine that differs from the likes of Google, in that it provides direct answers to factual queries rather than returning lists of links and sites. These direct answers mean that Wolfram Alpha becomes an extremely powerful tool in providing solutions for quantifiable facts and mathematical problems.

Wolfram AlphaName: Wolfram Alpha – www.wolframalpha.com
Pricing: Free / $5.49 per month (pro)
Compatibility: Web / Tablet / Phone
Access: No signup required
Privacy: Private (privacy policy)

 

A Quick Look

Wolfram Alpha can be an excellent tool to help students find answers to Math problems and assist them in understanding the steps involved in reaching a correct solution. While no replacement for face-to-face instruction, it can be a useful resource to compliment class work or for students who like to work through problems themselves or those who may be reluctant to ask for help.

*** Note: For a cheaper alternative to subscribing to a monthly paid Pro account, consider purchasing the mobile app for a one off cost.

 

In Practice

1. Visualizing elementary math

While Wolfram Alpha can be used for some pretty advanced mathematics it is also a really neat way to explain elementary math to younger students. Typing in some simple arithmetic (66 + 88) will not only give students the answer (it’s 154 btw), it will also present the solution as a number line and block illustration.

Wolfram Elementary

2. Plotting and graphing

Understanding the translation of Xs and Ys into a smooth line on a graph can be a big mental leap for many students. Try using Wolfram Alpha to plot and graph equations to show results in real time and highlight how small changes in an equation can have a large impact on the graph.

Wolfram Plot

 

3. Algebra and calculus

A real benefit of using Wolfram Alpha is the ability to plug in values and get results immediately. This can help students struggling with difficult concepts such as algebra and calculus as they can quickly and easily find solutions to problems and start to recognize patterns and similarities.

Wolfram Algebra

4. Famous math problems

Wolfram Alpha is not just limited to numbers and equations. Try giving your students a list of famous mathematical theorems or proofs and let them discover the definitions for themselves.

Wolfram Theorem

5. Applications of math

Because Wolfram Alpha is so much more than a search engine or calculator, many questions can spin off into whole areas of study unto themselves. This is of great value when trying to highlight the real world applications and uses for math. Try exploring fractals or some of the Physics, Statistics or Computer Science applications using the tool.

Wolfram Tree

 

Links and Next Steps

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, adactio.

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