This week I downloaded a free piece of software from Microsoft. Actually, 2 new free pieces of software. The first piece was the new Microsoft Mathematics “calculator”. I put calculator in quotes because it is so much more than just a calculator.

For instance, it is a calculator and a grapher.

If you click on the “Worksheet” tab, you get a calculator with a ton of functions.

Notice all the different statistics options available! As an AP Stats teacher, I am kind of liking that. It has a backspace key obviously placed, so correcting errors is easy, and to the right of the screen is a large white space where all the math shows up. Very nice.

The Grapher does 2D or 3D, and will pop up a box to enter the equation into with a little bit of help at the bottom. For instance, here I am typing in an interesting polar graph.

The second I hit the spacebar, the theta I am typing turns into the symbol. The only downside I see to this graphing module is it takes two more clicks to see the graph. You hit “Enter” on the pop-up, and then hit the “Graph” button below.

Ah, a pretty butterfly. The Graph controls has a nice animated trace function.

This is nice and all. It is a terrific way to get a free graphing calculator into the hands of learners at home, but the really neat part is the solver.

Hit the Worksheet tab, and solver, and it will solve just about any equation step by step. That’s right, STEP by STEP. A learner can now see HOW to do a problem, instead of just and answer. Will that help the unmotivated learner? No. Will it help the learner who is trying to figure out how to do the problem and will take what the machine says and apply it to the next problem? Yes.

There is a lot more to the program, but this is enough for me to dedicate space on my website to it. Very worthwhile.

Oh, and the second piece of software? That is the Microsoft Mathematics module for Word and OneNote. It lets me insert graphs directly into my word document, so I don’t have to mess with copying and pasting graphs any more. I like it.

Links here:

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 advertising page. Direct download page here.

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