Sage Removes Barriers for Technology in Math Classrooms

If you are not yet using programming with your math and science students, you might have a couple of excuses why.

1) I don't have the time to learn (give me 30 minutes)
2) My school won't let me install the software.

Technology in schools is difficult especially if you are working with older hardware or infrastructure. Many schools will only install new software at the beginning of the year, but if you are going to start programming you'll want to get started now.

Sage makes programming more convenient than ever while adding in some powerful math packages. You might see your graphing calculator's packaging saying it can carry you through college, Sage will take you from elementary math to your PhD and beyond. Created by William Stein with the intention of being a powerful free and open source alternative to technology like Mathematica.

You might wonder how Sage changes anything. Well Sage contains multiple programming languages so you are not constrained to one, but more importantly the Sage Notebook provides the ability to program in the cloud. While there are other options out there, Sage makes it really easy and puts it all together in a dead simple interface.

Let's explore the Sage Notebook (the cloud based version).

There are so many options for logging in, you can create a Sage Notebook account, use your Google/Yahoo/OpenID credentials or you can browse the worksheets without logging in.

Much like Geogebra, you can browse the public worksheets of other people in the community of users.

Click New Worksheet. Once in the worksheet, you can click on the drop down menu that says Sage and see how many options you have for languages. This covers the many programming languages one would need. If you are just starting out, you may want to use Sage, Python, or R (statistics).

If you read this blog, you know I love Python for its simple syntax and ease of use. With Sage you don't have to give that up, the syntax is essentially the same.

To see what really makes Sage a great fit for math try entering a fraction and hitting Shift+Enter. In Sage, fractions are treated like an actual object. You can multiply it, add two fractions, and all of the other manipulations you would do on paper.

A feature very popular in Wolfram|Alpha is the equation solver. Try this out in Sage:

It couldn't be easier to graph:

Once you have a worksheet you can share it with people so they can interact with it or publish it for viewing. In fact most of the examples in this post can be seen here. Just click on the buttons in the upper right of the workbook.
This is just meant to whet your appetite, there are so many different ways this can be used, especially when you consider all of the different functionality and the ability to work online and save/share your work. The documentation is very helpful and there are numerous tutorials created by the community to help you learn. Take a look at Sage's tour for more examples of what is possible.

You will not be disappointed as this is no toy but a powerful full mathematical suite. Student will love this for the same reason they love Geogebra. It takes abstract concepts and manipulation of symbols, variables, and functions and treats them like objects in a game. Now you can play with the math as opposed just focusing on calculating.

Being able to quickly see the effects of an equation or its graph means students can draw conclusions faster rather than being unnecessarily distracted by the arithmetic or plotting of points.  I hope you will take me up on this invitation to use this free tool. The hard work that the Sage community has put into making this available to all should not be in vain.

If you are already using Sage (and I know many of you are) be sure to share in the comments or on Google+ how you are using it.

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