Category Archives: Computing posts

Courses and Course Materials with Online content

University online courses

Links for Math History

Outside online courses

Thinkwell   Instruction on a CD; tests online. Has "live" lectures.
Aleks  Highly interactive lessions. It even has graphical rulers and pencil the students can use to draw graphs. Algebra, basic math.
eGrade  Wiley's eGrade interactive math testing program. Good, allows fill-in-the-blank questions.
eCollege   Well-packaged course module to which professors may add content.
Online Plato   Well-illustrated courses with audio. Low math/word ratio.
Cogito   Online courses in Statistics, Precal, Calculus
ElementK   Computer courses, no math
Hungry Minds   Go to "Mathematics", then "Trigonometry" and you'll find Math 140, Honolulu Community College, by Wayne Lewis, online for $117
MindEdge   Offers online courses from various colleges, typically $200-$900/student, no math.
Addison-Wesley (local comments)
I can learn   Claims to have interactive courses, no demos.
Houghton-Mifflin  Larson's Precalculus on CD-ROM (to be published).
McGrawhill  Barnett's Precalculus.
Virtual High School  Online high school courses.
Prentice Hall, MathPro  MathPro5 (needs login/password)

Other online material
Project Mathematics   Tom Apostle's famous video tape series.
Calculus OnLine
Platonic Realms
Math Topics

Interactive CDs
Thinkwell   Instruction on a CD; tests online. Has "live" lectures.
Math Deluxe (available at CompUSA). A Mathematica-type environment with instructional worksheets.
MathPert Assistant. Student is given problems, student chooses what to do at each step (subtract from both sides, factor, ... ).
Calculus WIZ. A Mathematica based Calculus tutorial and problem solver.

Course development tools
Laulima   UH uses this system.
WBT  TopClass.
Click2Learn (Asymmetrix)  ToolBook.

Information about online resources
PEW - successors of Virginia Tech Math Emporium

Computer lab

Math 190 Lab Home Page

The Department has a computer lab in Physical Science Building 208, equipped with Matlab, Mathematica, etc., for the benefit of students and faculty. Access is either by numerical code or by permission of the Lab Monitor.

When space is available, other students can use the lab during Math 140 exam times. However, the last Math 140 computer exam is the last day to withdraw. After that, the lab will be closed during these times.

Lab Monitor Schedule PDF

The schedule shows when the various Lab Monitors will be on duty.

Terms of Acceptable Use
Each student must agree to the Terms of Acceptable Use statement for the UH Math Dept Computer Lab. The students agree to obey all of the terms of use and conditions set forth in the UH Information Technology Resources Policy. Their policy is here:

The policy for the math lab will be the same, but adds in particular that

Students agree not to:
1) Download, install software or run any outside programs or software packages.
2) Download or upload work protected by copyright or files not related to class work.
3) Attempt to gain unauthorized access to remote computer systems.

In addition you acknowledge that:
4) There is no expectation of privacy in the Math Lab and your activities may be monitored.

Accounts and passwords

Each lab account can use a portion of the network hard for storing files. You save your files to the H: drive and not the local hard disk or C: drive. In Derive you would typically save your lab by using the Save As ... option on the File tab and then saving you file with the name H:\lab1. To open a file you would use the Open option on the File tab and enter H: <cr> to see a list of your files.

In order to keep others from using your account you need to keep your password secret. For example, don't write it down next to your account number in your notebook where others can see it.

Graphing and Calculus Software


Download wxMaxima (click to view info)
You can download this free software which is available for Window, MacOS, Linux and UNIX computers. This software is installed on the lab PCs and is used in the calculus classes for graphing and symbolic calculus calculations. In addition, the math department has many sample sessions available on their website.

Derive 6

Other Free Graphing Software:

Online Grapher: (click to try)
Try out this online grapher. Be sure to use the * character for multiplication and you zoom in on a point by dragging your cursor to form a rectangle around the point.
Download Winplot Software: (click for instructions)
Winplot is a small but useful plotting program that can be downloaded and used on any Windows PC. It is available on the desktop in the PC lab in addition to Derive. Give it a try!

Mac users with OS Version 7.5 or later already have a plotting program on their Apple menu. Check it out.

Other Free Software:

Just for fun ... read about an important math/computer problem:
The famous problem "P versus NP" problem is decades old and there is a million dollar prize to solve it. Now a mathematician in England has shown that the problem is equivalent to solving a larger version of the well know Minesweeper game that is included with the Windows operating system. Read the news story, Scientific American article or just play the game.

   getacro.gif (712 bytes)

Online grapher

Skip instructions

This program was one of John Orr's Java Projects. His homepage has several other interesting projects.

Adding Functions
Press "Add Function" button and type in a formula to be graphed in standard mathematical notation (eg "e^(-x/10)sin(x)"). The only variable the formula can use is x. Use Pi for pi; for example, sin(Pi/2 x). You can add as many functions as you like, and "Delete Function" deletes the last one you entered.
This brings up a panel which you can use to edit the scale of the graph. The x variable runs between xMin and xMax, and the y values run between yMin and yMax. Use xScale and yScale to set the spacing of tick marks on the axes. If xScale or yScale is zero, the graph will have no tickmarks on that axis.
You can change the scale of your picture quickly with "Zoom In", "Zoom Out" and "Zoom to Box". The first two zoom in or out around the center of the graph. If you click and drag on the graphing window, you can draw out a box, and Zoom To Box will zoom in to make that box fill the whole window.



The PC Lab in PSB 208 has the computer software Octave installed. Octave is a clone of the popular mathematical software system MatLab. The MatLab system is also available in our computer lab and there is a student version available on the web for a moderate fee. The MatLab system is used in many engineering and scientific computing laboratories. Octave is a free system available online by one of the creators of MatLab at the University of Wisconsin. It is licensed under the General Public License or GPL (see Wikipedia for more information). Its abilities include matrix computations, linear algebra, plotting and structured programming.

When used as a programming tool the program code is edited in an external editor supplied with the system and then programs are run by entering commands in the Octave command window. With a little care it is possible to use core elements of the MatLab/Octave programming language so that the program code will work with either system.

Installing Octave On Your Computer

1) Download the installation file by clicking the link below:

Window: octave-3.0.1-setup.exe
Mac-386: octave-3.0.1-i386.dmg

Either save it to a temporary location and then execute it or else execute the program immediately during the download process.

Note: I recommend choosing the non-Java version during the installation since it seems to be more stable.

2) The program will be installed in your C: drive and there will be startup folder containing a startup icon and PDF file version of the manual. The startup folder can be opened by clicking Start/All Programs/GNU Octave.

You start the program by clicking the startup icon and waiting for the prompt to appear. You then can just start entering statements into Octave by typing expressions and then clicking the enter key:

octave:1> 2 + 3
ans = 5
octave:2> 4^(1/2)
ans = 2
octave:3> 2*sin(pi/2)
ans = 2
octave:4> sin(2)
ans = 0.90930
octave:5> exit

That last command "exit" will close the Octave window and end the program.

3) By default, Octave will look for your program code in the folder

C:\Program Files\Octave

You want to create a better location for your files. A good solution is to create a folder "Octave Programs" in your "My Documents" folder. Next you need to make this folder the current working directory in Octave. This can be done at startup by using the change directory command cd as follows for Windows XP:

octave:1> cd "C:/Documents and Settings/Dave/My Documents/Octave Programs"
octave:2> pwd
ans = C:\Documents and Settings\Dave\My Documents\Octave Programs

For Windows Vista this would be:

octave:1> cd "C:/Users/Dave/Documents/Octave Programs"
octave:2> pwd
ans = C:\Users\Dave\Documents\Octave Programs

The best method is to have the system automatically make this change for you by editing the properties of the desktop startup icon. To do this right click the startup icon, click "Properties" and then edit the "Start In:" folder to be your code folder.

The next time you start Octave the working directory will be the one you entered in the "Start In:" field. You can check whether this is the case by using the pwd command as above.

4) The default text editor for writing octave code is the SciTE program and you can copy a startup link to your desktop also.  It is located at

C:\Program Files\GNU Octave 3.0.1\tools\wscite\SciTE.exe

This last step may not be necessary since the Windows system will associate this editor with text file with the m-extension. Thus, if you create an empty plain text file in your code folder (Step 2) with the name test.m then double clicking this file icon will open the editor. At that point you can use the File/Save As option to rename it.

5) To test your system create the file test.m in Step 4 and enter the single statement:

disp('Hello World!')

and then Save your changes. Next double-click the Octave startup on your desktop and enter the statement 'test' followed by the Enter key. Here's what should happen:

octave:1> test
Hello World!

Alternately, you can just enter statements directly into Octave by typing say:

octave:3> disp('Hi!')
octave:4> for i=1:5, disp(i^2), end

The preferred method of writing code is to use a source file (as above) and then test the code in Octave. When something is not right you should modify the source file, save the changes and repeat the testing step. Nevertheless, any code statement  can be entered directly into Octave for testing purposes or for doing very simple examples.

6) To get started with programming read over the introductory material in the Octave Manual starting at page 33. Another way to get started is to skim over the MatLab Getting Started Manual starting with Chap 3 and Chap 5. The Matlab system has a completely different interface than Octave but the MatLab Command window is very similar to the Octave system language:

Octave Manual (378 page PDF)
Getting Started with MatLab (138 page PDF)

Octave and MatLab are quite compatible and with a little care one can write programs that will simultaneously work with either system. In addition, MatLab has an extensive website to help you learn their programming language, see

MatLab Programming Online Help

7) It is possible to paste code into the command line and to copy portions of the command window for use in text files. Here's how you do that:

  1. Enlarge the octave window so that all computations are showing.
  2. Right-click in the top window strip to reveal the edit menu. Choose Edit and select Mark.
  3. With your mouse select button held down select the portion of the window you want to copy. It should highlight as you move your mouse. When the material is selected press the Enter-key. The selection is now on the clipboard and can be pasted into a text editor.

The reverse process of pasting a command into Octave is done by first copying the command to the clipboard from a file or web page. Then, in the octave window right-click the top window strip and select Edit then Paste.

These direction may vary slightly for Mac or Linux computers.