[Edu-sig] thought re graphing calculators ...

Charles Cossé ccosse at gmail.com
Mon Sep 28 19:34:55 CEST 2009

Yup, similar experience here.  And graphing calculators have now been
promoted to the point where their importance is probably no longer
questioned ... which is too bad ...

There are many ways to graph python-generated computer data.  I have dabbled
with many, but for various reasons I continue to use the best one I've ever
found: NPLOT.  If you haven't heard of NPLOT it would not surprise me.
NPLOT is a Fermilab product, developed about 12 year ago.  It is written in
C.  It is a beautiful thing and allows interactive, dynamic exploration of
multi-column (aka "ntuple") data in many different representations.

You can download nplot from ftp://ftp.fnal.gov.  It only runs on Linux.  If
you are a teacher using Linux and Python then you might very well love what
NPLOT can do.  At the heart of it are some very powerful graphing widgets.
Your python program just needs to write tab-separated columns of data and
NPLOT will read it no problem.  If anyone tries this and needs help, feel
free to contact me ... I've used this product extensively for years.  Lots
of sample code I could provide.

Anyway, Python + Nplot = GreatAlternativeToGraphingCalculator.


2009/9/28 Brian Blais <bblais at bryant.edu>

> On Sep 27, 2009, at 19:38 , Charles Cossé wrote:
> Hi, this has probably been discussed to death already, but maybe not: The
> point at which fancy graphing calculators become "necessary" (ie as in one's
> student career) is the point at which the calculator should be abandoned and
> Python employed.  Just a thought ... delete at will !
> Just a month ago, a friend of mine who homeschools her children was asking
> me about graphing calculators.  Apparently the math curriculum she uses has
> a number of graphic calculator exercises.  My advice was to buy a nice
> solar-powered scientific calculator (for $15 at Target), but to ignore the
> graphing calculator entirely.  Her kids should do the exercises by hand, on
> graph paper instead.  Anything that is hard enough for you to use a graphic
> calculator can be done much more easily with a computer.
> After giving her this advice (which I still stand by), I was thinking about
> my own experience.  I was going through high school when the first graphic
> calculators came out, and I had one Junior and Senior year and through
> college.  I loved to program it, and I loved the big screen where I could
> see and edit expressions.  However, as I think about it, I can not think of
> a single problem where I *needed* the graphic calculator, or where it gave
> me more insight than I could do by hand.  It was a fun toy, but not the best
> tool.
> bb
> --
> Brian Blais
> bblais at bryant.edu
> http://web.bryant.edu/~bblais <http://web.bryant.edu/%7Ebblais>

AsymptopiaSoftware|Software at theLimit
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