Yesterday afternoon we had a half-day workshop on Maple, a computer algebra system. At least that’s how we think of it, but here’s the description on their website:
Maple is the leading all purpose mathematics software tool. Maple provides an advanced, high performance mathematical computation engine with fully integrated numerics & symbolics, all accessible from a WYSIWYG technical document environment. Live math is expressed in its natural 2D typeset notation, linked to state-of-the-art graphics and animations with full document editing and presentation control.
Users can perform everything from instant “in document” calculations to highly complex mixed symbolic and numeric programming involving millions of terms, at any precision desired. Maple’s intelligent technical document environment addresses the full spectrum of needs and requirements from high school students to advanced commercial research.
The question, of course, is how we can use this software productively in the context of high-school math courses. We looked at several possibilities yesterday, ranging from expansion of powers of trinomials to 3-D graphing. For instance, suppose we want to calculate the fifth power of a trinomial. If we simply type the appropriate expression, it gets echoed back:
But if we ask Maple to expand it, it does so:
And then suppose we want to solve or plot a system of three equations in three unknowns. Maple will do both:
This is just a beginning. We don’t know yet how we’ll use it, but it surely promises some major expansions of what we can do in high-school math.