If you haven’t tried WolframAlpha, you really need to head over there immediately after reading this post.
The great thing about this site is its ease of finding computational data. Do you have an algebraic equation you need solved? Type it in the search box and watch the magic happen. Ask for the population of France and get both the number and a chart of population growth for the last 30 years. Just for fun, type in the following formula:
Taylor series of sin^3(x)
No, I don’t know what it means either, but Wolfram Alpha does!
Here is the question. Would your math students benefit from using this site? Maybe not if you have a typical math class. If you expect your kids to sit down and do their homework in the confines of their room armed only with a calculator and their wits, you aren’t paying attention. Kids today sit down with their laptop, mobile phone, calculator, iPod, and television all at the ready. They are connected. They are social.
So maybe to use this site you might have to rethink what you want from your students for their homework. Maybe you want them to find the answer here and then explain in class how the answer was solved. Yes, they will get step-by-step instructions for algebra problems. Here is an example of a linear equation I just made up:
If you assign a problem and then have the students discuss how it is solved so that they can teach others in the class, then Wolfram Alpha would be a great resource. It would ensure that the student is getting immediate, positive, correct feedback on how to solve problems.
Of course, there are a ton of other ways to use Wolfram Alpha. You just need to check them out for yourself. OK, you don’t have to go all the way over to the Wolfram Alpha site. You can search right here and see for yourself.