This week, Richard Byrne posted a note about Microsoft Mathematics on Free Technology for Teachers. Curious, I downloaded it and have been playing with it. Although not intuitive at first, it quickly becomes more so as you use it. It looks like an excellent tool for Science students, as it can streamline some of the more lengthy, time consuming calculations that suck up class time, like solving quadratics and systems of equations.
There is always the concern that if the computer does all the work, the students never learn it, but there are a few good counter-arguments. First, understanding when, how and why to use the math is arguably more important than the actual mechanics. Second, students who know their way around a graphing calculator can do this anyway. And third, Microsoft Mathematics can show the steps:
This in itself could be useful for helping students to learn how to perform these solutions, and allow students who struggle with the math to still succeed in Science. I think this could become part of my regular repertoire. Thanks Richard!