Thursday, June 18, 2009

Personal Free Online Math Assistant

Some online professors are concerned about the new search engine WolframAlpha and its potential to give students the answers to assignments. WolframAlpha calls itself a "computational knowledge engine" and has the ability to calculate problems and deliver solutions - even for questions that no other user has ever asked.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported:
"The latest dilemma facing professors is whether to let students turn to a Web site called WolframAlpha, which not only solves complex math problems, but also can spell out the steps leading to those solutions. In other words, it can instantly do most of the homework and test questions found in many calculus textbooks...

Unlike Google, WolframAlpha features a supercharged math engine based on the Mathematica software used by many researchers. It makes a graphing calculator look like a slide rule."
Since WolframAlpha demonstrates how math equations are solved, students could easily get around the "show your work" requirement that is often mandated to make sure a calculator isn't used.

Perhaps online professors will need to come up with a new way for students to prove that they're working on their own. Or, perhaps it's time to embrace technology and let students use the problem-solving programs that will only become more common in the future.

The website is free for personal noncommercial use with no registration. The data comes not from the web, like in the regular search engine, but from WolframAlpha's internal knowledge base. Some of the data in that knowledge base is derived from official public or private websites, but most of it is from more systematic primary sources.

For those, who are in love with browser plug-ins, there is an opportunity to get extension for FireFox and Internet Explorer, or to Windows Vista Desktop or iGoogle.

And for Webmasters, especially specializing on the math related topics, there is an easy opportunity to embed the search box in the body of the site for the visitors’ convenience.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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