By tpm | April 4, 2012
Device: iPad, iPhone
I first became familiar with Wolfram Course Assistant app reviews last summer. These apps are essentially customized interfaces for Wolfram Alpha, Wolfram’s amazing “computational knowledge engine.” The apps strip down Wolfram Alpha to the specific functions that are needed for a particular course. They also often provide a custom interface for those functions.
A recent Course Assistant release from Wolfram is Linear Algebra. I have to go all the way back to the Spring of 1998-99 school year for my experience in linear algebra, but a lot of terms and computations came flooding back as soon as I opened this app.
The Linear Algebra Course Assistant app is incredible thorough, covering any topic you’d run into in a linear algebra class. The headings in the main menu include: linear equations, vectors, matrices, linear transformations, subspaces, orthogonality, eigenvalues and eigenvectors. Of course there are sub-menus within each of those main menu options, bringing the total number of linear algebra features on this app to over 30.
While Wolfram’s Course Assistant apps are not tutoring apps (i.e. no tutorials, videos, explanations, etc), they do coach you through how you should format your calculations. And, as is the case with every Wolfram Alpha based product, you often get additional helpful information along with your answer that can be helpful in understanding it further. I love, for example, that many of the calculations you can do with the Linear Algebra app provide visualization in 2D or 3D as well to help you understand the graphical nature of what you just found, rather than just the answer. Just a few examples of this are the cross product, null spaces, and the orthonormal basis of a matrix. I think I (and many of my classmates) would have had a much deeper understanding of linear algebra with access to this app and its visualizations.
My only beef with this app is that I wish matrices could be entered exactly as they appear in a textbook. Instead of entering a true array of numbers, you have to enter each row individually as an order pair (or triple, etc.). For example, an 3×3 identity matrix would be entered (1,0,0) , (0,1,0), (0,0,1). However, the answers to appear as matrices in the traditional form, and I doubt many students that have advanced all the way to linear algebra will struggle too much with inputting matrices in this format.
Once again, Wolfram has created a terrific app that will be of great use to students of linear algebra. If you’re a student taking linear algebra, the $4.99 you’ll spend will be well worth it as this app is both a terrific answer checker as well as a way to help you understand the class content on a deeper level.
Tap here to get the Linear Algebra Course Assistant App at the App Store.