As most of us are using cell phones today, Israeli scientists have decided to put a math lab in your pocket. They developed a library of math modules which can be installed on almost cell phones available today. So you'll be able to see graphs or solve equations on your phone while on a train or a bus ride. You'll also be able to send graphs or formulas by SMS to other students -- and to send the results of your exercises to your teacher. Did I mention you can download these applications for free?
You can see on the left a real example of one of the applications developed by Michal Yerushalmy with the help of software developers Arik Weizman and Zohar Shavit. This particular one is called Graph2Go, which is a special-purpose graphing calculator that operates for given sets of function expressions. You can test it online here. It's very easy to use: it looks like you type on a real phone. (Credit for image: Math4Mobile)
But why develop this kind of applications when students and teachers have already access to computers?
"I believe that mathematics needs to be learned in creative ways, and not by memorization and repetition. Just as physics and biology labs teach through experimentation, I believe that there should also be math labs, where learning is experiential," said Prof. Yerushalmy. According to Prof. Yerushalmy, computerized math labs like these have been developed in the past, but the cost of computers and the limited availability of computer classrooms limited their use. Cellular phone applications are accessible to both teachers and students on the school campus, on the way home or just about anywhere else.
The Math4Mobile site offers more information and describes how these applications could be used.
You are a 16-year old student, waiting at a bus stop for your school bus, trying to prepare for the PreCalc exam. You take out your cellular phone, open the Math4Mobile m-Book and start learning. You can explore concepts and test your understanding by doing some quizzes that your teacher stored on the class site. You are already on the bus when your friend calls and asks for help with an exercise. You exchange messages, attaching the diagrams you worked on and compare your attempts at solving the problem. When you feel ready, you send the exercises to your teacher to check them. In the meantime you have arrived home. You check your teacher’s comments on your PC and continue working from your PC.
You'll need a Java enabled (J2ME) phone with a recommended screen resolution of 176 x 208 pixels to use these applications -- also called 'midlets' -- which are available for free. Just visit this page and put a math lab in your pocket.
Sources: University of Haifa news release, July 10, 2007; and various websites
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