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.
Pricing: Free / $5.49 per month (pro)
Compatibility: Web / Tablet / Phone
Access: No signup required
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Links and Next Steps
- Wolfram Alpha Mathematics Examples – Example math problems to try
- Further Wolfram Alpha Examples – Physics, Culture, Chemistry and more
- Teaching kids real math with computers – TED talk from Conrad Wolfram
- Wolfram Alpha mobile – Cost effective option for students
- Math Course Assistant Apps – Curriculum specific apps from Wolfram Alpha
- Wolfram Problem Generator – Overview of generator feature
- Using Wolfram Alpha in the Classroom – Resources from Wolfram Alpha
- Why Wolfram Alpha is a Potential Pitfall for Math Students
- Symbolab – Free alternative for step-by-step math solutions
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, adactio.