Review of Graphic Calculus software (for Windows)
Though the name might suggest otherwise, Graphic Calculus program is actually very useful not only for calculus but also while studying algebra. It is a graphing software, and so shares the same basic features as other graphing programs, but it has some features that made it in my mind rise above others:
- Besides normal graphing, Graphic Calculus has sections where you can explore lines, parabolas, trigonometric functions, exponential functions, and a section on financial mathematics.
- It is very easy and intuitive to use.
- The section "Finding a formula" - or in other words "guess the curve" - is very educational, yet fun.
- The software includes special sections that deal with change and gradient (to explore the concept of derivative) and area (to explore the concept of an integral).
The program computes Δx/Δy when Δx approaches zero - preparing for the concept of derivative.
Let's look at some of these features in more detail.
Sections on exploring functions
These special sections of the sofware let you explore some of the most basic functions: lines, parabolas, exponential, and trigonometric functions. That is normally a very important part of any algebra course. Computer illustrations can really beat paper/pencil methods here, and I would recommend anyone studying algebra to get a graphing software of some kind.
In the LINE section you can move the two points and see the formula, y-intercept, and how the slope changes.
Similarly in the PARABOLA section, moving the points makes the graph change, and you can observe how the formula and the zeros change.
In the Trigonometric graphs section, you will find one of the best illustrations of the unit circle versus the graph of any of the three basic trigonometric functions. The illustration is animated, and after you study it, it really should help anyone to understand the unit circle.
In the exponential function section, you can study the formula, growth factor, and percential increase.
Ease of use
I have explored various graphing software and many online graphing utilities, and Graphic Calculus was extremely easy to use. You just can't get lost in it. Since each section (graphing, complex functions, area, functions of two variables, etc.) is separate from others, the screens are not too cluttered, and the menus and toolbars are not too full with buttons and options.
Screen for the advanced calculus topics - you can't get lost
Finding a formula
This "guessing game" is perfect for algebra students when they are first learning to graph linear functions, absolute value function, parabolas, and so on. You can choose from pre-made functions or the teacher can create his or her own set.
You're shown a graph, and you simply enter an equation that you think it is. The computer then draws a graph for your equation, and if it goes on top of the one already there - you got it right!
I guessed y = 4 cos(2x) but it wasn't that...
What else can you do with it?
You can obviously graph functions, both in normal and parametric forms. You can study and graph diagram of change, gradient, area under the curve, differential equations, cobweb methods, financial mathematics, Taylor polynomials, functions of two variables, linear programming, and complex functions. It therefore covers mathematical topics ranging from high school to college level.
In the TOOLS section you can create profiles and choose only certain buttons and options to appear on the screens. This can be useful for teachers who don't want the students to get distracted or confused by too many things to do.
Overall, a well thought-of software that you can be happy with. The price sounds right too: $15.
The program's home page is at www.vusoft2.nl/GraphicCalculus.htm.
Price: $15. Windows PC software.
Review by Maria Miller