The Wolfram Education Portal is a fantastic resource for learning both basic and advanced math skills. The Algebra and Calculus courses currently offered should be helpful for individual online learners. The main benefits:
- Membership is free, giving access to comprehensive math courses at your fingertips for no cost.
- Concepts are presented in a variety of ways, so that every learning style is accommodated. Those who learn by reading will find the textbook portions easy. Those who learn visually and by doing will get the greatest benefit out of the widgets and demonstrations included in the text.
- There are resources not only for students and independent learners, but lesson plans for teachers as well!
The site uses five types of resources:
- Textbooks: Each lesson includes a relevant section of Wolfram’s digital textbook, explaining the big concepts behind the chapter in easy-to-understand language. It’s very different from the math textbooks you may be used to! They also include comprehensive examples, explaining each new concept and problem step-by-step. Interactive widgets and demonstrations follow each section, described in more detail below. All this is followed by a review, which you would expect in a more traditional math class. This allows students to practice and apply what they’ve learned from the chapter. And, yes, you can check your answers once you’re done.
- Lesson Plans: Wolfram also includes lesson plans that explain how to apply the textbook lesson in a lecture. These are intended for teachers, but are helpful for anyone who wants to learn a little more about the subject. There are class exercises to make sure everyone is following along, adding another level of understanding. There are some extra widgets in this section that you won’t find just reading the textbook.
- Demonstrations: The demonstrations in the textbook show students how to visualize a problem. The demonstrations are interactive, meaning you can see how a problem would look if you substituted different numbers for the same problem. It shows students how dynamic the concepts really are, and effectively function as an unending series of related “examples” in a way a paper textbook just can’t match. Following subjects has demos.
- Widgets: The widgets are where the fun really comes in. Yes, I said it – Wolfram Education Portal manages to make math fun. You can play around with the concepts presented in the chapter, deepening your understanding. Unlike the demonstrations, the widgets are more flexible and show you how to solve actual problems, You can customize all the parameters, and it will output the results in a straightforward manner, just like the examples earlier in the chapter. This functions, in many ways, the same way as a teacher working a problem through on the board in front of the class. Obviously, this is a huge benefit for students who are using the site to study independently, or to build on a lesson previously taught in class.
- Practice: This is the last feature Wolfram wants to bring to students. It’s not available yet, but hopefully will be soon. Practice will allow users to work out problems related to each lesson.
The last feature of Wolfram Education Portal is the only one that isn’t free. Wolfram also offers Course Assistant Apps – unfortunately, presently available only for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. These apps are very reasonably priced at less than $3 each, and they provide help in 13 different subjects. They cover not only basics like Pre-Algebra and Algebra, but several different Calculus courses, but also Physics, Statistics, and Chemistry. There’s even some really fun ones like Music Theory and Astronomy!