I have had a few days to play around with this software, and my initial enthusiasm has been somewhat diminished. It has many powerful features, including the equation solver I mentioned previously that will list the steps. But it falls short for use in the Physics classroom for a number of reasons:
- No regression analysis. It will plot a set of data points, but won’t create a line or curve of best fit. Have to use Excel for that.
- No vector addition, except as coordinates or matrices.
- Area under a linear function – useful for displacement and Work, not there.
- Here’s a biggie – powers of ten are treated as simple multiplication.
Let me elaborate on that last point. Every year I run into the same issue with students not knowing how to use their calculator correctly, and making technical calculation errors as a result. One of the big ones is they enter scientific notation as 1.6 x 10^6, instead of using 1.6E6. The difference is in the order of operations; 1/1.6E6 = 0.000000625, while 1/1.6 x 10^6 = 625000. Try it yourself.
Microsoft Mathematics has a built in “*10^” button, but it does not behave the same as the E button on the calculator, meaning it is prone to the same kind of errors. (The image shows what happens when you enter 1/1.6[*10^]6 using the “*10^” button.)
So as a tool in my classroom, I think its use will be limited. A shame really, I kind of had high hopes for it.