Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Open Source Applications for Math Teachers

In addition to all the technology ramblings I post here every month, I am also a student. This is my final semester in an undergraduate mathematics program with a secondary in education. I believe free open source software (FOSS) is the way of the future and should be used in schools as much as possible. In addition to being free of charge, having code be open promotes learning (as future computer students can see how the internals of a program work).

Part of my final semester was student teaching at a local high school. Technology is very much a part of the classroom in 2011 and I used a number of open source tools to aide in my teaching. The following is a collection of some of the best open source tools around that you can use to enrich your mathematics class.

Geogebra
Task: Interactive Geometry Software
Platforms: Linux, OSX, Windows

I believe Geogebra is easily one of the best pieces of educational mathematics software around. It is easily comparable to Geometer's Sketchpad and performs many of the same functions. One of the largest advantages of Geogebra is that because it is written fully in java it can be run 100% in the webrowser, requiring no installation.


KAlgebra
Task:
Function Plotting
Platforms: Linux

KAlgebra is a calculator that has both symbolic and analysis features that lets you plot 2D and 3D functions. In the 2D function plotting tagent lines along a function are also easy to display simply by moving the mouse.


wxMaxima
Task: Computer Algebra System
Platforms:
Linux, OSX, Windows

wxMaxima is a Computer Algebra System (CAS) that is a GUI front end to Maxima. It has a wide range of features which I've described in more detail in my post here.


XCAS
Task:
Computer Algebra System
Platforms: Linux, OSX, Windows

XCAS describes it's as the "swiss knife of mathematics" - which isn't too far from the truth. It has all the features you would expect from a CAS and then some! One of the most notable features though is that it comes with a "maple syntax" option - so those coming from the closed source Maple will feel right at home using XCAS.

Qalculate!
Task: Multi-Functional Calculator
Platforms: Linux

Qalculate is easily one of the best scientific calculators around. It stores every calculation you make so you can easily go back and find numbers you have crunched in the past. Qalculate also includes a wide range of scientific constants to easily perform calculations with. This is an application no science or mathematics major should be without.


LibreOffice Math
Task: Mathematics Document Creation
Platforms:
Linux, OSX, Windows

In addition to providing a full office suite (Word processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation, and data base) LibreOffice also provides a fantastic mathematics writer. Excellent for creating worksheets and exams that look professional, LibreOffice Math is easy to learn and a great tool to have.


Xournal
Task:
Digital Notebook
Platforms: Linux, Windows

Xournal + a cheap tablet computer + a projector = a fairly cost effective interactive white board. The main benefit to putting lecture notes down in a digital form is easily saving them for later. As a teacher writing notes on a tablet computer is beneficial due to the fact that you can face the class as you write instead of having your back turned.


Do you have an open source mathematics application you like to use that I did not list here? If so drop a comment below letting me know what it is so I can check it out!

~Jeff Hoogland

11 comments:

  1. What about SAGE? (http://www.sagemath.org)
    I've found it to the best by far.

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  2. If you don't care for normal word processors, you might want to take a look at lyx (www.lyx.org), which has excellent support for entering equations.

    And I second the recommendation of SAGE, which is absolutely amazing.

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  3. Very nice post!

    For typesetting documents with math, I highly recommend LaTeX. There's definitely a learning curve, but once the basics are acquired, it is much more efficient than a word processor.

    Here's an introduction I wrote to help my grade 11 students learn how to use it. http://bit.ly/m0SKWL

    Cheers!

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  4. Also Kig, Cantor and Kbruch, available from http://edu.kde.org/
    Oh and KDE apps also work on Windows: http://windows.kde.org/

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  5. Thanks Jeff for sharing this well developed post. You might consider using this as the focus for submission to a mathematics journal. Dr. Galante

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  6. I also recommend Sage.

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  7. Thanks for letting all of us know about this, I didn't know about alot of these software programs. I appreciate you letting us know about it. Thanks

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  8. Have you seen the 175 free online math games at hoodamath.com? Check them out http://hm.gs

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  9. Great post, Chinese version translated at http://www.drxlab.net/2011/05/math-apps/

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  10. We use Octave as an open-source alternative to MATLAB. It's command-line driven, whereas MATLAB is GUI-based, but you get used to it after a while. In some cases, though, having a GUI could really speed up things.

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  11. Please have a look at the command-line calculator "bc" also,

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