WolframAlpha: Why Every Math Student Should Bookmark This Website (Every Other Student Too)
The study of mathematics is a part of every student’s life, especially the Computer Science major. A CS degree requires, at minimum, thorough understanding through advanced Discrete Math and/or Calculus. Most math students come across one problem–or a hundred–that leaves them scratching their heads. That’s when WolframAlpha is a lifesaver. I can’t recommend it enough.
Not a math student? Wolfram covers everything from programming, physics, earth science, art & design, to meteorology. They really do have it all.
There’s also a comprehensive programming lab, development platform, finance platform, and more. For the sake of keeping things simple, I’m focusing on the standard website.
I learned of WolframAlpha in my Introduction to Computer Science class. We used it for logarithmic equations. I added it to my bookmarks and used it to quickly solve logs instead of fussing with my TI-84 calculator, which let’s face it, gets messy sometimes. It wasn’t until the next semester, when Trigonometry brought me to my knees, that I remembered that bookmark. And it made all the difference in the world. I could describe the site, but it’s better to show how wonderfully it breaks down information.
Hands down, the best feature is the step-by-step solutions. Because we’re not looking to simply plug in numbers and copy the answer into homework. We want to actually comprehend the material. By clicking on the step-by-step solution, you can view every step and get an explanation as to why that step was taken.
This feature has proven invaluable to me because sometimes I’m doing the majority of the problem correctly, but there’s a tiny mistake along the way. When those mistakes are hard to pinpoint, I use this feature to see where I’m going wrong. Also, I can’t count how many times an instructor “walks through” a problem yet manages to magically get from point A to C. This feature helps clarify those magical unseen steps.
Important Note: While most of the website is free (I didn’t pay one penny during CS), some of the features require paid membership. The step-by-step solution is one of those features and access to symbols that aren’t easily translated with words is another. Luckily, the plans are inexpensive and you can subscribe/unsubscribe any time. For these types of services, I cancel when the semester is over and re-sub when the need arises. (Pretty much the way I treat HBONow during seasons of Game of Thrones.)
You could spend hours scouring the Internet for this information–and you may find it across several sites–but WolframAlpha makes accessibility a breeze. I can honestly say that using this website raised my grades. I haven’t used the other sections much, but that’s solely because I haven’t had the need. My only regret is that I took several math courses before learning of its existence.