Math + iPod

The other day I was trying to do some vector calculus homework. Not exactly the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It wasn’t particularly hard stuff as we’re only two weeks into classes, but I was struggling with trying to visualize the graphs of the functions I was doing questions on. I’m not too sure how many people can easily visualize what the graphs of f(x,y)=x^2y or f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) look like.

The graph of f(x,y)=x^2y courtesy of Quick Graph

The graph of f(x,y)=x^2y courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

Trying to find any excuse to put off my homework, I started playing around on my iPod touch. I found myself in the App Store looking for some free game to amuse me. So I played for a little while, then realized I had to buckle down and get to work again. I was still really struggling with these graphs, they were taking forever to figure out. Then I thought to myself, maybe there is an App in the App Store that is capable of doing these kind of graphs. So I searched “graph calculator” into the search box and found “Quick Graph” (and it was FREE!). After I got into the application I got playing around and got the hang of it really quickly.

I typed in my functions (f(x,y)=x^2y and f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y)) and was able to see what they actually looked like! I found i could also zoom in or out and rotate it however I wanted. This was so incredibly useful for the duration of my homework.  With a few touches, I could see what exactly I was working with in my questions.  I flew through the rest of my homework with the help of this app!

I will likely have to memorize how these functions actually work since I’m quite sure I won’t be allowed to use my iPod in exams. Despite not being able to use it on exam, I will be able to get through many many more problems compared to before. Plus the more different graphs I see, the more I’ll get a better understanding of they work in general.

The graph of f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

The graph of f(x,y)=cos(x^2-y) courtesy of Quick Graph (click to enlarge)

Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost every kid has an iPod or something very similar. As a kid with an iPod, I know I want to use it for everything I can. I know it’s capable of more than just playing my music. Now I’ve discovered it could be a great educational tool. Students would probably enjoy their homework more if they got to “play” on their iPods as they did it. If, as teachers, we allow our students to use and explore these excellent resources, they could get through much more work at a faster rate while enjoying it.

But will tools like this just make students lazy? They definitely could if they aren’t utilized properly. I think that as long as a we continue to push them to understand what they’re doing this shouldn’t’ happen. A tool like Quick Graph could certainly enhance a students learning experience.

While in the App Store, I noticed there is an entire category devoted to Education with 282 pages of apps with 20 apps per page.  That’s just over 5600 apps!  I haven’t had the opportunity to look closer at them, but there has to be some great apps dealing with every subject there is.

Why don’t we start letting kids “play” with their education a little and enjoy it more?   The more fun it is for them, the more fun it will be for us too!