Microsoft Mathematics 4.0

16 February , 2011

Usually I am not too fond of Microsoft. I spent a lot of time as a student, trying to avoid using MS products. Internet Explorer was almost like foul language in the late nineties, so Netscape it was. There are still things uncomfortable regarding Microsoft software, for instance, a new windows PC is takes ages to prepare for proper use, removing malware and pieces of Windows. By the way, this can be automatized by paying a visit to sites like ninite or pcdecrapifier. Choose what to keep and what to remove, and hit the ground running.

Anyway, I have cleaned up my relationship with MS, I am even buying and paying for Office and Windows these days. Windows 7 is pretty good in my opinion, miles ahead of Windows Vista. But the latest reason I have come to like MS is their mathematics software. On my Norwegian blog, i wrote about Microsoft Office Math Add-in. Anders Sanne and I also wrote (a Norwegian) article on the mathematical writing on computers. Someone liked it, I guess :D. You can find it (what? You don’t understand Norwegian?) here: (pdf-format). This Word add-in makes it easy to make graphs and solve simple equations as well as simplify expressions. All inside of Word, which is handy. But the use is quite limited, wouldn’t it be nice to have the complete Mathematics package? Would you know it, Microsoft decided to hand out Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 for free. You can download the whole thing here.

You may have noted, I am a huge GeoGebrafan. The next version will include CAS and 3D, as mentioned in an earlier post. Does MSMath4 have anything to offer on top of that? Well, yes and no… The approach is certainly different. Plotting surfaces is easier than in the present beta of GeoGebra, for instance:

It seems MSMath4 is less picky regarding syntax. I just typed the expression in the picture above, without consulting any manual. The insertion field behaves much like the formula editor in Word. MSMath4 formated everything right, interpreted this as a function z(x,y) and offers to plot it.

Quite a few special treats are built in. Unit converter, triangle calculator and a book of formulas.

I tried to enter two equations in two unnowns. MSMath4 not only calculated the answer, but showed me step-by-step solutions. You can also choose which METHOD the software should use for solving the problem. Neat.

A few unfamiliar functions exist. I can choose to enter math by hand, (great for tablets or smartboards) and in the picture below my function is interpreted as mathematics instantly.

Press ENTER and I am offered the oportunity to plot the graph:

If this is my software to go to remains to be seen. I get by perfectly with wxMaxima and GeoGebra. In particular, GeoGebra has a lot of teacher-specific-functions like dynamic sliders and things like that make it perfect for teaching and exploring. Perhaps wxMaxima gets eaten by GeoGebra when the latter releases the CAS+3D version. MSMath4 has a great user interface, so many will probably get to like that prior to other software.

Yet another GeoGebra

18 January , 2011

Several versions of GeoGebra are planned launched, and you can try some of them now in their beta stages. I have mentioned GeoGebra(prim) earlier on my Norwegian blog – a scaled down, simplified version intended for primary school use. I also suspect there’s a SMARTboard version in the making (although you can make your own version for the SMARTboard by making points and text much larger!) Yet another version is what will become GeoGebra 5.0 (ok, I know we haven’t reached 4.0 yet, but let’s not get into details…), GeoGebra 3D.

A lot seems familiar at first glance, but a couple of new entries can be seen on the toolbar.
CAS is mentioned in the Norwegian curriculum, and up until now, the only free and rather easy alternative is wxMaxima.


At least two new choices of “mode” has turned up. In the picture above you see the CAS mode. This is a part of GeoGebra that can be used for things like solving equations algebraically and simplifying expressions. I solved a quadratic in the screenshot, and I had no idea about the syntax beforehand. It turned out it was similar to most other CAS’s , for instance, wxMaxima, Texas Instruments-calculators and others.


Not many 3D software systems intended for school use exists to my knowledge. One alternative is Google Sketchup. One option in Google Sketchup is to “drag” areas upward to turn them into prisms. This is also an option in GeoGebra 3D, as you can see in the screenshot.
You can download the test version with 3D and CAS here:

Battle of the traditions…

25 November , 2010

A few days ago, this comic appeared in my Google Reader: OK, this is not too difficult when you know who Kenny Baker is (and who doesn’t?!). Click that previous link before you read further.

I then did the calculations by hand, as seen in the first picture (yes, it looks horrible, just like mathematical work should).

I figured I should check my answer, and brought out my TI-89. Not a tool I use too often, as wxMaxima and GeoGebra fulfill all my needs, but it was “nice” to see it again.

Punching in the exercise I got the correct answer there too, shown in the calculator shot.

Now, first of all, nice going on making this exercise Spiked math! Finding proper integration limits so that integrating C-3P0 turns into R2-D2 is not trivial.

Second, it struck me how different even straight forward exercises like these are when using two different means of solving. One can argue using a calculator is less work for the brain, but I can’t recall one instance in the handwritten version, where I actually had to stop to think. It was all memorized rules of calculus and algebra, rote work.

Using a CAS like the TI-89 (now replaced by the TI Titanium, and later the TI n-spire), there was still not much work for the brain involved. The only parts where you (or rather, I) would stop to think was wether the syntax of the input line was “expression, variable, lower limit, upper limit” or “expresseion, lower limit, upper limit, variable”. Logically enough, you should tell someone (anyone!) what dummy variable is involved in the calculations before applying the limits of integration.

Either way, solving the problem felt good because it was Star Wars related. The one who learned anything at all from this, was the one who devised the problem in the first place.

And perhaps Kenny Baker got a giggle out of it, too.

Morley’s theorem

4 June , 2010

I am still not able to post GeoGebra-files directly on WordPress, so I will stick to linking to my Norwegian blog. Last dynamic geometric gem is the theorem of Morley, stating that trisecting angles in a random triangle will give intersection points that are nodes in an equilateral triangle.

Check it out:

Windows 7: The calculator has a lot of new features. | Ask The Admin

12 February , 2010

Windows 7: The calculator has a lot of new features. | Ask The Admin.

Cool, I wasn’t aware of this, but come to think of it, the calculator in Windows hasn’t really gone through many stages of development. I guess there’s no real point in putting a CAS/DGS inside Windows by default, since excellent freewares already are being domesticated in schools and higher education, but you never know. What kind of mathematics calculating systems would we see built into the OS? My gut feeling is I ‘d still want my GeoGebra fix.

Some GeoGebra examples

25 September , 2009

Just thought I should share some good examples of visual mathematics with you.

The first one comes from David Richeson, and pictures what happens when the rays striking a parabola do not come at a straight angle to the vertix.

The second one is from the excellent blog Lessons taught, lessons learnt. It shows some of the statistical capabilities of the new version of GeoGebra.

Embedding GeoGebra…

25 May , 2009

On my Norwegian mathematics blog, (on it was quite easy to embed a Java powered file made in GeoGebra by using GeoGebra’s built in “hosted Java archive” and the GeoGebra Upload Manager. However, I still can’t see how this can be done on WordPress, although I am sure it can! On blogspot, it looks like this:
Anyone with any further ideas on how to accomplish this on WordPress?

The Childrens’ machine

21 March , 2009

A small one for the kids this weekend. My daughter has reached the age of two, and it’s impossible to keep her from hacking away at my keyboard. We have yet to buy one of those small kids’ computers for learning letters and stuff – but this weekend I am installing CrazyLittleFingers. Basically it allows you remap the keyboard and taylor it to your kiddo’s needs (and it’s fathers’ needs…).

You must provide the kid yourself and download CrazyLittleFingers here:

Reference software

14 March , 2009

This is so hard. I am talking about committing yourself to a database of some sort, and this time it’s the reference database I am worrying about.
If you collect a lot of music or movies and catalog them extensively, you know what a drag it is when you figure you have chosen the wrong database or cataloging software. (So far I have been pleased with Mediamonkey ( for the music and it seems XBMC ( will do the trick for flipping through your movies with style. But I digress.
Now I want to catalog, sort and search my references, so what software should I commit to? I used to be an EndNote user as long as I got it for free, but no more. I had to look for free options (I AM the cheap researcher). First to come along was zotero (, and believe me, it is still excellent. It is a Firefox add-on which allows you to add references from bookstores and article bases with ease. It then integrates with Word for easy use when referencing in your writing. The coming (now in beta) version includes sync to web, so that you have your references at hand at all times. Great. Converting from EndNote was a nightmare, but most of my thousands of references went along with the swap after some tinkering.
Then I got Word 2007, which had a built-in reference manager. This might have been the best option, but I found the managing capabilities a bit wanting.
Finally I have tried Mendeley (, a manager with a sync’ed software and web version, with capabilities to store and extract information from pdf-files.

But what to choose? This is almost a lifetime commitment (ok, it is not, but it would be nice if it was) so it’s important to chose right! Heeeelp….