Using Wolfram Alpha in the Classroom
Educators in need of an accurate online source for learning and teaching can find an aid in Wolfram Alpha, a computational database engine that powers searches on mathematics, science and a host of facts on everything from population figures to politicians.
Wolfram Alpha’s goal is to make verified information available to Internet users. In addition, Wolfram Alpha makes the knowledge base even more useful by showing the computational steps behind mathematical equations and allowing for comparisons between any number of facts.
Teachers can use Wolfram Alpha in homework assignments, to help visualize data and to show the logical steps in statistical analyses. Students can use the site at http://www.wolframalpha.com/ as well, to serve as the engine behind their research for reports and essays.
The key difference between Wolfram Alpha and other search engines is that Wolfram Alpha curates its data, ensuring accuracy. The facts are verifiable with the source information provided as well as part of any searches.
A few key examples: A search for Manchester, will reveal the population of the city: 483800 people, tell you that population figure is from a 2009 estimate, show the city on a map and offer to provide the coordinates. A search of Manchester, UK and Manchester Washington state, U.S., will allow you to compare the two cities by the same name.
A search for Pi, will not only provide a student the figure 3.14 and even more decimal places, but it will also show the computation behind the calculation of pi.
For more information about the benefits of Wolfram Alpha, educators can go to the site and find videos of Wolfram Alpha being used in the classroom for teaching mathematics, social studies, geography and more.
Important facets in using Wolfram Alpha are the speed of the search engine in computing answers, the ability of the search engine to understand natural language as opposed to more complicated search queries and the ability of Wolfram Alpha to employ visualizations in explaining data.
All of these features mean students are more engaged, and even more importantly, are engaged in learning a tool that can be trusted to provide accurate information.