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Maple 8.

Waterloo Maple. c2002. Windows 95/98/ ME/NT 4 (64MB), XP, 2000 (12MB), Linux, Pentium II, 233MHz, 150MB free disk space for single user, 230MB for network CD-ROM disk, user's guide. Student edition, $129.00; teacher edition, $995.00 SA

This mathematics program provides powerful capabilities for computation and symbolic manipulation across a broad range of mathematics. Like other programs of this type, you enter math commands in a document in a command-line syntax and Maple evaluates them and displays the results in the document. The document can also contain text and provides the basic features of a modern word processing program. Maple can compute solutions exactly (e.g., using fractions, radicals and constants like pi) or can provide numerical approximations. It can also create 2D and 3D graphs of functions and mathematical expressions.

Version 8 provides enhancements in three areas: user interface, calculus education, and advanced mathematics support. The user interface improvements are called Maplets and had been released separately (see review in KLIATT, May 2002) but are now bundled into Maple 8. Maple, like other powerful math software, is based around a text-based command line interface where the user types mathematical expressions and the software returns a response. As the software becomes more flexible and capable, the list of commands becomes longer and the command-line interface becomes more complex and difficult to learn. Maplets enable you to build dialogue boxes and point-and-click user interfaces within Maple. For example, a teacher could quickly build a user interface to a capability in Maple that helps students explore a topic, without the students ever having to know the Maple command language. Maplets are quite easy to create (once you understand the basics of Maple's command syntax) and can range from simple dialogue boxes for entering numbers and expressions to complex interfaces with graphs, sliders, check boxes, and drop down menus. Maple 8 includes a useful command called "interactive" that uses Maplets to help users plot a graph of a function, even if they do not know Maple commands.

Waterloo also bundled the calculus education applications into Maple 8 that had been separately available from the Maple Web site. These Maple files walk students through the basics of calculus, providing examples that utilize the program's symbolic and graphing capabilities. Teachers can use the new commands added by this package in their own teaching of calculus.

For example, you could draw a graph and a tangent line to that graph at a point using basic Maple commands, but it takes a fair bit of work. The calculus education package includes a "tangent" command that does it all for you. Other useful commands cover surfaces and volumes of revolution, secant lines, graph analysis (concavity, extrema, etc.), Riemann sums, Taylor approximations, and Newton's method.

The enhancements to the mathematics capabilities of Maple 8 are less likely to be of interest to high school teachers. These include enhancements to Maple's handling of numeric partial differential equations, vector calculus, calculus of variations, and ordinary differential equations. Maple 8 also includes the ability to generate Java code that corresponds to Maple expressions, which may be useful to teachers who build Java applications for their math Web sites. In summary, Maple is a full-featured mathematics environment with powerful capabilities, and all high schools should have at least one copy of Maple or a similar program available for students doing advanced math. For schools with previous versions of Maple, whether to upgrade or not will depend on the value to you of the new features in version 8. The calculus package is available to download from:

and if you teach calculus and use Maple I would recommend taking a look. The Maplets package is only available for download to users of previous versions of Maple if they have signed up for the Extended Maintenance Plan (or, of course, you can get Maplets by upgrading to Maple 8). Thomas S. Downey, Teacher, Rivers Sch., Weston MA
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Author:Downey, Thomas S.
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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