Numerical tool system


Necessity is the mother of invention, and this aphorism certainly helps to explain the recent proliferation of education software. Linux and open source are ideal platforms for this because there's no proprietary barrier to entry and hardware requirements are low and inexpensive. But there's already a huge number of applications and platforms that anyone can use to expand their learning. For serious mathematicians, for instance, there's SageMath, a brilliant alternative to the costly Mathematica and MATLAB, and it's been around since 2005. Installation is easy if you're happy to run the pre-compiled binary from the project's main site, which sucks up around 2GB of bandwidth to download. This seems surprising for what is essentially a command-line application, but the pre-compiled binary includes everything you need to take your calculations from your humble keyboard out into space, from Python and IPython to PARI, GAP, Singular, Maxima, NTL, and GMP. Like quadratic equations, we don't know what half of those mean either.

SageMath at first seems complex, but it claims to be equally capable with elementary mathematics as with advanced, pure, and applied mathematics. You can verify this by launching SageMath on the command line and typing 1+1 into its interpreter. The answer is a resolute 2, rather than a convergent equation. But of course, this isn't even the beginning of the beginning. SageMath can easily plot both 2D and 3D functions, for example, by generating a PNG image and automatically spawning your desktop's default image viewer. There's also an interactive element that helps you construct functions where a user can change the formula and see the changing plot in real time. If you've got the mind for it, the documentation is also excellent and wonderfully educational. There are chapters on calculus and cryptography, number theory, fractals, statistics and probability, and even loop quantum gravity (whatever that is).

Project Website

As great as SageMath is, it still can't do a simple calculation like 1/0.

Mattermost terminal client

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