Monday, November 15, 2010

Doing Math Homework With Wolfram Alpha

I wonder how many kids will do their homework by hand if they find out that Wolfram Alpha can do most math homework for them.

For example, going to http://www.wolframalpha.com and type "solve x^2 + y^2 = 1 and x y = 1/2" will give you this page with graphs, symbolic and numerical solutions:


For some problems, Wolfram Alpha can provide step-by-step solution. For example, finding the derivative of 1/cos(x^2) gives the solution and related information. When we click on the "Show steps" link, we get to see this:


Integrals can be done easily. Typing "integrate 1/(1+ 2x + 5x^2)" and clicking "Show steps" gives you this:


Wolfram Alpha can provide step-by-step solutions for many of high school and college math problems I tried; standard math homework that asks the students to "show their work" would be easily done by Wolfram Alpha.

2 comments:

Chrisada said...

I wonder how my kid will be learning mathematics when she's in college. (Even at 4-day old she doesn't look like an art major)

I'm all for pocket calculators and I think school should let kids use them and test them on problems that would still need skills and thinking even with calculators.

But for calculus and other college level maths, I have no idea. There will be those in the class who wants to go and do much more difficult mathematics, and I think the drill and repeated practice problems still has value. For others who will not use it day-to-day, it might be better to focus on how to relate and apply the basic concepts to simple everyday subjects.

Ko Saipetch said...

I suppose kids in 10-20 years will have always-on connection to the internet and something like Wolfram Alpha. It's important to teach them the basics though. Things like logic, skepticism, evidence gathering, setting up problems, and some background knowledge of the math that can be done easily by Wolfram Alpha.

I'm all for everyday application of knowledge. Learning from books does not stick too well :-)