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Algebrator is a desktop application for solving a large range of math equations frequently covered in algebra classes. Think of it like a calculator for algebra, or an 'algebrator'. The program's interface is a simple sheet of lined paper, with a selection of math icons, functions, and a toolbar at the top. Simply enter an equation and click on the 'solve all' button, and the program spits out the answer, step-by-step. Don't understand a step? Highlight it, then click on the 'explain' button. Need to graph your answer? Algebrator does that, too.
Algebrator handles not only what one might think of as classic algebra problems, but also simpler and more complex problems. Examples range from finding least common multipliers and greatest common factors, to synthetic division, quadratic equations, and solving matrices. But beware: the user has to be able to correctly translate word problems into equations for Algebrator to help.
Algebrator is impressive in its problem-solving capability. It handled every problem we threw at it, with ease. However, its teaching ability is limited. Explanations are accurate, but tend to be somewhere between cryptic and terse. As a result, if you were struggling to understand a concept, the explanations might prove to be of limited value. In addition, our testers felt that the step-by-step answers didn't always use the methodology they would have used, or expected. While this makes no difference to the ultimate answer, it may make a difference to students whose teachers expect them to follow a prescribed methodology.
Programs like Algebrator are in a special category, in that they are tools where the user provides much of the content. So in that respect, they are somewhat like spreadsheets or word processors, with the addition of a modicum of explanatory material. As a result, Kid Appeal is not measured by hours of use, or number of sessions. Rather, the appeal is measured by the frequency with which a student returns to the tool for use. On that basis, Algebrator offers promise for students who have a basic understanding of principles, but need some help, or wish to check their answers.
Algebrator installed quickly and without difficulty on SuperKids' test machines. The user interface is generally intuitive, and when questions arose, the built-in manual and video demos were adequate.
Algebrator is best for students with a good general understanding of basic math principles, but need some help, or wish to check their answers. It will be of limited utility for struggling students, or those trying to teach themselves new material.
PC: any version of Windows including Windows 7, at least 25 MB hard drive space, CD-ROM drive .return to top of page
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