Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 130 / JUNE 1991 / PAGE 139

Calculus. (mathematics tutorial software ) (evaluation)
by Richard Leinecker

Running Calculus reminds me how tough learning and then teaching calculus was and illustrates how much easier a program can make the process. You probably can't learn the subject by using software alone, but you approach enlightenment sooner by supplementing your study with this package. And if you're learning algebra, geometry, analytic geometry, or trigonometry, you'll benefit from many of the chapters.

Calculus runs in the Windows operating system. That means you need at least an AT class computer with a 286 processor and an EGA graphics card or better. Sure, those are stiff requirements, but one of the beauties of this program is that it takes advantage of the latest technology to effectively present information.

During my teaching career, I explained to my students that functions were like number-processing black boxes. The box was an equation that performed operations on numbers that are plugged in, and out comes the result. They all said, "Huh?"

Now you can actually see a function as a boxlike icon. The input numbers fall into the box, and out the bottom comes an answer. That's what I call an effective illustration of functions! All of the examples included are interactive. You can alter the function and experiment with different input numbers to see what comes out.

The prize for the hardest concept to teach goes to the graphing of lines and functions. Once again, this program does a tremendous job of showing how the math works and offers you the chance to dynamically interact. You can pick different equations and numbers, and you'll see how the various factors affect the graph.

The final hurdle on the road to understanding advanced mathematics is the derivative. It's tough to make sense of the old phrase rate of change, but when Calculus presents it, you can actually see a derviative and how it relates to a function. That's a lot better than graphing hundreds of functions and dozens of derivatives for each one before learning the concept.

Calculus comes with lots of extras that make learning even easier. There are online explanations of chapters if you need help; they consist of problems, tutorials, or a mixture of both. Optional sets of hints for the problems and positive reinforcement for right ansers are also part of the package. The developers went the extra mile to make certain that this program was everything that an advanced mathematics program should be.

If you're looking for a terrific supplement to your children's math education, by all means buy this program. Anyone who uses Calculus--especially the mathematically timid--will be reaping the benefits for years to come.