I’ve recently been exploring Microsoft Mathematics.
Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 is free software that can be downloaded from http://www.microsoft.com/education/products/student/math/. 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.
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.