Wolfram Alpha Shows its Work

The bane of math students everywhere is the teacher asking for you to show your work. If you’ve grown up where a computer is a normal part of school work, that might annoy you since a lot of tools just give you an answer. We aren’t suggesting you cheat at homework, but we did notice that Wolfram Alpha now shows more of its work when it solves many common math problems.

Granted, the site has always shown work on some problems. However, a recent update shows more intermediate steps and also covers more kinds of problems in a step-by-step format. There are examples, but be aware that for general use, you do need to upgrade to pro (about $6 a month or less if you are student or teacher).

As an example, consider factoring a simple polynomial. If you click the link you’ll see the answer along with an orange button that says “step-by-step solution.” This leads to a wizard-like screen that shows each step. In some cases, the step starts with a hint so you can try working the problem yourself. Pressing next will show the actual work and let you move to the next step.

We often say that getting the right answer is only part of the value for math. There is at least as much value in developing intuition about physical processes. For example, if a resistor doubles in value, what happens to the gain of the amplifier? Does it double? Halve? Change exponentially? Seeing the steps worked out and the graphs that Wolfram provides can help you visualize things like that.

Wolfram can do a lot of electronic problems. If you want something more specific, try OneSolver. If Google and Alexa are not mathematical enough for you, perhaps you’d be happier with Wolfram.

Filed under: software hacks

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