By Tech Powered Dad | June 27, 2011
Wolfram announced the release of their Course Assistant Apps a couple of months back, designed to help students with their math and science courses. I was curious to see what was in these apps and how they might help a student, so I decided to pick a couple of the apps up on iTunes to take them for a test drive. As I am a high school teacher, I purchased the Algebra and Pre-Calculus Course Assistants since they seemed to be the courses I’d have the greatest familiarity with. They are available for both the iPad and iPhone. I used the iPad version for this review.
What the Course Assistant Apps Are
The apps are essentially a customized menu driven interface of Wolfram Alpha. In fact, the Wolfram Alpha app has a lot more features than these classroom assistant apps. However, the big advantage these apps have over Wolfram Alpha is that they have a user interface that’s much more well suited to specific course needs. As good as Wolfram Alpha is at recognizing language, there may still be times that it’s difficult to figure out what to type to solve certain types of problems.
With the Wolfram Course Assistant apps, it’s pretty much fill in the blanks. If you want a table of values for a function, you tap table of values and you are given blanks to type in your function, the top and bottom values of the table, and how much you want to increment by. It’s like that for pretty much every feature you want to use. Fortunately, Wolfram took exactly the apps from Wolfram Alpha needed for each course. You’ll only find the Algebra features of Wolfram Alpha integrated into the Algebra Course Assistant. If you want the Calculus features, you’ll need the Calculus Course Assistant. While there was some overlap between the features of the Algebra and Pre-Calculus features of the course assistants, it was for features you’d need in almost any math course.
What the Course Assistant Apps Are Not
This isn’t a tutoring app, so look elsewhere if that’s your need. There’s no instruction of the material here or video tutorials. In fact, I think a student that’s truly struggling in the class might not really find these apps all that useful. They might not even know where to start. These apps are perfect for checking your answers and asking “what if” questions like “what would happen if I changed that coefficient?” but they’re not designed to teach the material.
Bottom Line Wolfram Course Assistant Apps Review
I think you could accomplish everything the Course Assistant Apps can do and a lot more on a TI-Nspire CX CAS. However, you’d spend more time figuring out how to do so, and you’d spend a lot more money (assuming you already have an iPad or iPhone). If you already have an iPad, the most expensive of these apps is still just under $5. With that in mind, these apps are a great deal, and I can definitely recommend them for average to above average students.