iPad App Review: Maple Player

iPad App Review: Maple Player

November 21st, 2011 by

For those of you that aren’t math nuts like yours truly (I’m kidding, math novice here), Maplesoft is a developer of advanced mathematical and analytical software. Their tools are used by engineers, scientists, and mathematicians as well as major companies the world over. With the new, and free, Maple Player app for iPad they have brought a suite of interactive calculators based on the desktop version of Maple software. Some features and capabilities of the app include:

  • finding solutions to integrals, derivatives, and limits
  • visualizing the methods for calculating the area of a circle and the volume of a cylinder
  • plotting arbitrary functions
  • calculating solutions to linear systems
  • and much, much more

The app is currently limited to the series of functions that are included in the free download, but future plans include the ability to access documents from an online repository, and ultimately the ability to work with any Maple document in the iPad app.

How It Works

The app has the basic structure of Pages or Numbers, with the paradigm being that you work with a series of documents contained in a desktop-like environment. Tapping a document zooms it up to fill the screen, where you can interact with it. Each document has its own series of interactive doo-dads. One might have a slider that adjusts a number higher of lower, another might have a fully interactive text box that in which you can enter an equation for the app to plot.

Pros And Cons

Not being particularly adroit with advanced mathematics myself, I cannot really comment too intelligently on the Maple engine that is at the heart of this app. I will just have to trust at this point that its calculations and solutions are correct, and since the company has built their entire business model and reputation around advanced mathematics and analytics, that is probably a safe assumption.

So as to the app itself: it’s a great, fun, and informative way to explore concepts in mathematics that would otherwise require special software and knowledge to understand. Just to be clear, this is not a beginner’s guide to advanced math. Although the app does offer explanations for its calculations (for instance, the document on “Approximating the volume of a sphere using cylinders” contains a detailed proof), you still need a basic understanding of the concepts involved before you walk in the door. This app is primarily a player for interactive documents produced and offered up by Maplesoft, with the ability to create custom documents coming somewhere down the road.

The concepts are described clearly and completely, with plenty of visuals and interactivity where appropriate. For instance, in the aforementioned volume of a sphere document you can drag a slider to add cylinders to the equation, watching as they accumulate and eventually approximate the shape of a sphere.

Overall

Maple Player from Maplesoft is a fantastic free player for a series of documents based upon the Maple desktop application. Future versions will include the ability to download more documents and eventually create and upload your own, but for now its a good, interactive way to explore a series of key mathematical concepts in a dynamic and interesting way.

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