Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Five Free Scientific Calculators

In my school we've occasionally had a problem with scientific graphing calculators growing legs and walking away for good. I'm sure we're not the only school to have that problem. One possible solution to the problem of disappearing calculators is to have students use calculators on their laptops, netbooks, or tablets. Here are five free calculators that you can either use online or install on your computer.

Microsoft offers scientific calculator that you can download for free (Windows only). Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 is a graphing calculator that plots in 2D and 3D. Of course, the calculator does many other functions such as solving inequalities, converting units of measure, and performing matrix and vector operations.

Encalc is a free online scientific calculator. Encalc describes itself on its homepage as follows, "Encalc is an online scientific calculator. Its strength lies in its ability handle units and dimensional analysis, to define variables and its large database of constants. Parenthesis and scientific formulas are also supported." One of the features that I really like about Encalc are the explanations of how different variables and constants function within an equation or formula.

Web2.0calc is a free online scientific calculator. While it won't replace the TI-84 Plus, it can do what your average high school student needs it to do. The best part is, you don't have to use it on the Web2.0calc site because they offer three widgets that you can use to embed the calculator into your own blog or website.

Speed Crunch is a free scientific calculator application for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems. Speed Crunch performs all of the functions necessary for high school Algebra and Geometry courses except graphing. In addition to performing all of these functions, Speed Crunch has a "math book" containing commonly used equations and formulas. One Speed Crunch feature that appealed to me from a design standpoint is the color coding of equations to differentiate between constants and variables.

Graph.tk is a free online graphing utility that I found in the Google Chrome Web Store. Graph.tk allows you to plot multiple functions through its dynamically resizing grid. To graph an equation on Graph.tk just click the "+" symbol to enter a new equation. Click here to watch a short video of Graph.tk in use. One thing that the video doesn't show and isn't clear the first time you use Graph.tk is that you need to delete the existing default equations before you start.

Face Flow - Free Video Conferencing for Four

Face Flow is a free video conferencing system that can accommodate up to four participants at a time. Using Face Flow you can text chat while video conferencing. To invite people to join your Face Flow call all you have to do is send them link to your conversation. And if you're so inclined, you can watch a video and chat about with your friends.

Applications for Education
Face Flow could be useful for hosting an online conversation with students and or parents. If you have students whose parents cannot meet in the same place, but can meet at the same time, Face Flow could be a good way to get them together for a parent-teacher conference.

One quick word of caution about Face Flow, they do have an option for "random chat" so this is not something you would want to set students loose on without supervision. 

Pose Questions for Space Shuttle Endeavour Crew

The NASA space shuttle Endeavour launched on its final mission yesterday. On Thursday, May 19 PBS NewsHour correspondent Miles O'Brien will interview the crew live at 7:31am ET. Miles O'Brien will include some questions submitted by viewers. To submit your own question(s) visit the Google Moderator page set up for questions. There is one day left to submit questions.

Here's the promo video for the interview.

Applications for Education
This is a good opportunity to get students to think about what they would ask astronauts and possibly get direct answers to their questions. Even if they don't get their questions answered, it's still a good exercise to encourage students to think about space exploration.

Beat Lab - Experiment With Beats and Sounds

Beat Lab is a free service through which you can experiment with thousands of sound and rhythm combinations. Using Beat Lab is easy. Beat Lab provides a grid on which you select the sounds you want to have played. You can specify how often you want each sound played and how quickly you want the sounds played. There are twelve default sounds provided in the Beat Lab grid. You can add more sounds by selecting "add more sounds" and choosing from the huge catalog of sounds. If the sound you want isn't available in the Beat Lab catalog, you can upload your own sounds.

Applications for Education
Beat Lab could be a good place for new music students to experiment with sounds and rhythms. With Beat Lab even students who can't play an instrument can experience how rhythms and blends of sounds create music.