By tpm | June 23, 2011
There’s a new online graphing calculator out there that I think may soon top the National Library of Virtual Manipulative graphing calculator for top browser based grapher. There are tons of graphing calculators online, but frankly, most of them aren’t worth much. They’re either incapable of more sophisticated graphs, difficult to use, or just plain ugly. Startup Desmos has launched a graphing calculator that offers a lot of power and flexibility, as well as being simple to use.
I spent a few minutes working with the Desmos calculator this morning, and I’m very impressed. It’s simple to switch between cartesian and polar equations. There’s a nice keypad with pretty print capabilities, so you don’t have to learn much in terms of calculator syntax, and there are a lot of sample equations to pull up while you get the hang of using the calculator. The calculator also offers the ability to experiment with parameters in an equations to see how they affect properties like slope and intercepts. Hopefully, a future release will give those parameters a “slider bar” like the NLVM site has so students can see them adjust dynamically rather than having to type them in one at a time. One of the things I like best about the Desmos calculator is that you don’t have to write your equations in terms of y, making it easy to graph conic sections and any other number of common graphs.
There’s no ability to trace, find extrema, intercepts, etc. yet, which is a concern. However, I made contact with Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff this morning who told me not to worry, those features are their “top priority” and will be coming very soon. I’ll update this article as well as post and update via Facebook and Twitter once those capabilities are out.
Chrome is my browser of choice, so I was also thrilled to see that Desmos has a web app in the Chrome store (also free) allowing you to use the calculator like a browser plugin. There’s also the capability to save your work and then load it when you’re offline. You’ll definitely want to play around with this calculator as it’s a great free resource for students and teachers alike. Follow this link to check out the Desmos graphing calculator.