Wolfram|Alpha Queries

This is my response to this post by Mr. Morford concerning his view of Wolfram|Alpha.In my Finite Math class this semester, I have been using Wolfram|Alpha a lot.  The other day one of my students wanted to use Wolfram|Alpha to reproduce one of the feasible regions, when all she knew were the corner points.  I told my student to do it directly.  Our first query was 'shape with corner points at (1,3) (4,5) (8,6) and (3,1)'.  Wolfram|Alpha didn't take very well to that. After a few trials, I put in the query:  'polygon with vertices at (1,3) (4,5) (8,6) and (3,1)' and poof, Wolfram|Alpha gave me the required feasible region.  My student immediately commented that there's almost no way without my guidance that she would have ever thought to use the words polygon and vertices.  But she did tell me that she now recognizes the importance of knowing what things are called and the vocabulary that goes...
Read More

Using Wolfram | Alpha Effectively

When I was helping some of my students review for their final exam tonight, I was reminded about Wolfram|Alpha, and how to effectively use it in the classroom.  One of my students was trying a factoring problem, and he all of a sudden started typing it into his computer.  I asked him what he was doing, and he told me that he was using WA.  I was also reminded that I was the one who told him about it.  I am very adamant that WA is an effective tool to aid in student learning, as long as it is used properly.  I have no problem with students checking their work to a factoring problem using WA. That being said, how do we bridge the gap between what students can do at home and in the classroom if all of the students don't have a computer with internet access to use during class.  And even when students do...
Read More