Wednesday, 13 April 2011

TI-Nspire 3.0

Last Friday saw the launch of the latest version of the TI-Nspire software - version 3.0. This has a few new features in addition to the already excellent version 2:

Adding images
You can now add images to Nspire pages, including as the background to a graphing or geometry page. This is a really powerful tool for relating mathematics to students' experiences outside the classroom.

Differential equations
You can also plot first order differential equations on version 3.0, where the derivative is a function of x and y. It plots a slope field indicating the shape of the general solution and particular solutions can be shown by entering initial conditions (as a single value or list).

3D Graphing
The 3D graphing will plot graphs of the form z=f(x,y). The graphs are displayed really nicely and the window is easy to move. I'm very hopeful that later iterations of version 3 will have the ability to add points and vectors to the 3D graphs so it could be used to for the vectors/3D geometry in A2 Core and A2 Further Pure.

Publish to web and new handhelds
A feature that isn't enabled yet but will be really useful is the ability to publish TI-Nspire files on webpages which can then be viewed (and interacted with!) in any browser. I'm hoping to have some on here as soon as this feature is live. The other major advance is the new handhelds featuring high-resolution colour screens - gone are the days when a pixelated screen meant you couldn't tell the difference between an asymptote and a vertical line and this really brings the technology into the 21st century.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Microsoft Mathematics

I’ve recently been exploring Microsoft Mathematics.

Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 is free software that can be downloaded from  It has a number of features that are implemented very well in an easy to use format.  The ones that I have used are the in-built CAS, the equation solver and graphing screen.

The CAS engine appears to be the same as many others – it gives the same results as Maxima for many things.  It’s easier to use than Maxima though: entering and editing are straightforward and there are some useful options, such as differentiation/integration, that are offered immediately upon entering an expression.  Using CAS can make writing questions easier as shown with the example below.

Equation solver
The equation solver will solve any equation, as a normal CAS engine would do, but it also includes the option to display detailed solution steps.  Where there are a couple of usual methods, such as completing the square of the quadratic formula for a quadratic equation, it will display both methods. 

Any expression or equation entered in the worksheet can be displayed in the graphing tab.  It automatically recognises parameters so y=x²+bx+c will plot a quadratic with sliders for b and c which can be animated.

Overall this is a very useful piece of software that, whilst it is free, is worth downloading.  The inbuilt triangle-solver and formula-solver in particular will be of use for many teachers and students.