Wolfram Research and American Education Week
November 12, 2012 — Crystal Fantry, Senior Educational Outreach Specialist
This week is American Education Week (November 11–17), and in a very fundamental way, our goal as a company is to improve educational standards and accessibility around the world with our technology. For over 20 years, Wolfram Research has been at the forefront of combining technology with education. It started with Mathematica and grew with Wolfram|Alpha, mobile apps, the Wolfram Demonstrations Project, Wolfram SystemModeler, and much more. From simple elementary math to highly complex physics, Wolfram’s tools are used not only around the nation, but around the whole world.
Next year marks the 25th anniversary of Mathematica. Today, Mathematica is a staple at both research universities and smaller liberal arts colleges. In fact, Mathematica has been adopted by many school systems throughout the country, including SUNY, CUNY, and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU). We’ve partnered with MnSCU to make Mathematica available to Minnesota public high schools through an outreach program. And the government of Panama, having recognized the importance of investing in its future, has recently focused on teaching Mathematica to professors, researchers, and students in all computer-accessible high schools and universities countrywide.
Wolfram also provides two valuable resources to anyone who is currently teaching with Mathematica or thinking about teaching with Mathematica: the Wolfram Faculty Program and the Wolfram STEM Program. These programs benefit both faculty and students by equipping the former with the tools necessary to implement Mathematica into their curriculum and the latter with the skills necessary to succeed in academia and beyond.
Since its launch in 2009, the use of Wolfram|Alpha in education has been steadily growing as well. With new features added weekly and its database of knowledge growing daily, the ways to use Wolfram|Alpha in the classroom are endless. And another one of our technologies, Wolfram|Alpha Pro, has undergone some changes to allow schools to subscribe to a site license. Early adopters of Wolfram|Alpha Pro site licenses include Yale University, University of California at Riverside, and Montana State University.
Recently, Wolfram|Alpha released two new features targeted at students and educators. In September, we announced the expanded Step-by-step Solutions. The new interface gave users the ability to walk through solutions at their own pace, showing multiple ways to find solutions to common math problems. We introduced three new math content areas that now have Step-by-step Solutions: solving equations, rational arithmetic, and verifying trigonometric identities.
Shortly after the expanded Step-by-step Solutions were released, we unveiled additional functionality in the form of solving word problems. Wolfram|Alpha is able to interpret common math problems into mathematical symbols, and then compute an answer. For example, problems like “If I have 12 apples, and Jane has 7, and then Jane gives 2 apples to me, how many more apples do I have than Jane?” are easy.
Teachers have also used Wolfram|Alpha Personal Analytics for Facebook in their lessons. For example, teachers have asked their students to look at the personal word cloud generated by Wolfram|Alpha based on their Facebook updates. Students can easily learn about their personal vocabulary and the words they use the most.
Another use of Wolfram|Alpha in education came from one of our colleagues at Wolfram|Alpha. Richard Clark talked about how he used Wolfram|Alpha while he was an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in Korea. Clark used Wolfram|Alpha to help inspire conversation with his students on topics that wouldn’t necessarily come up in everyday teaching.
In 2011, we began our crusade for “An App for Every Course, and More” with the release of our first mobile assistant apps. Powered by Wolfram|Alpha, these apps allow students to enjoy a user-friendly interface that guides them through relevant functionality to best solve their queries on a specific topic. Over the last two years, we have released 15 Course Assistant Apps. Each Course Assistant App is designed specifically for popular courses, from algebra and calculus to geography and music theory.
Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha, and our mobile course assistant apps are only part of Wolfram’s presence in education. Others include Computer-Based Math™, the Wolfram Education Portal, Mathematica Summer Camp, and our participation in Edmodo.
So celebrate American Education Week with Wolfram Research. Show your friends and colleagues how Wolfram technology has helped you, whether it’s learning essential principles in mathematics or teaching them to others.