Posts Tagged ‘Sage’

Chromebook!

November 26, 2013

I live on a Windows campus. I came from a Mac campus, and I really wanted a Mac, but I was unable to get one. Rather than get a Windows machine, I opted for a Linux machine. I am not really a member of the Linux community (I don’t have the skills to belong), but I have been really happy with my machine. The main drawback is that it is not portable; there are many times that I wish I had a laptop.

In fact, portability actually makes me more productive. I work at a very social campus (both students and faculty), which is nice exactly up until the point where you need to get a lot of work done. If I had a laptop, I could leave my office to work at a place where no one can find me.

I briefly considered last year switching from my Linux machine to a Windows laptop. This would be portable, and it would also make it easier to create screencasts. However, I am loathe to give up the dual monitors that come with my Linux machine, which seem to triple my production.

I would consider buying a MacBook, but I do not have a lot of money available to me. So, instead, I bought a Chromebook. It was used, it was $160, and does 95% of what I want a computer to do (even though it is basically just a web browser). In order to save money, I opted for an old Samsung from Amazon Marketplace, rather than the newest version.

I am very happy with my purchase so far. The reason for this—and I wouldn’t have bought a Chromebook if this hadn’t happened—is that William Stein and friend created a ridiculously useful service that allows me to create \LaTeX documents online, do all of my calculations online, and gives me a fully functional shell with which I can ssh into my work computer. Without Sage Math Cloud, I would not have gotten a Chromebook. With it, I get all of the benefits of dual monitors and portability for only $160.

(I have received nothing from Google, Samsung, or the Sage Project for writing this post).

Area professor introduces students to Python

February 25, 2011

After a couple of years of building up the courage to try, I finally attempted to incorporate computer programming in my mathematics classes. The reasons for doing so are two-fold:

  1. Computers are everywhere, and it seems like an educated person should have some experience in programming them.
  2. Programming is a fantastic tool for getting students to understand algorithms.

In particular, I am teaching elementary education majors this semester, and I am starting by having them code the standard addition algorithm for base six numbers. Here is how I set up the exercise:

  1. I reserved a classroom set of laptop computers for the day.
  2. I decided to use Python. This is because it is a useful language, the syntax is relatively minimal, and it is relatively easy to read.
  3. My students were to input numbers as lists; furthermore, I made the requirement that their program only work with four digit numbers. That is, 1234+45 would be inputted as [1,2,3,4]+[0,0,4,5]. These were both done to eliminate the coding that would not help them understand the algorithm better.
  4. I coded up a similar base six subtraction algorithm. I gave them a copy of my code to help them get started on the addition algorithm (the addition algorithm is substantially easier to code). (I also gave them a copy of a program that will take a sum of numbers of arbitrary length—not just four-digit numbers. I still, however, kept the inputs as lists).
  5. My school does not have a Python interpreter on its network, and I cannot request one until the summer (there are only two times per year that I can request software—before each semester). Instead, I decided to use Sage Online as my interpreter.

I explained this plan to my students, and they seemed game. However, there was a serious problem with using Sage Online. For some reason—perhaps because all of the computers were being funnelled through the same wireless router—one student could see everyone else’s worksheets on Sage, and no one else could see any worksheet.

At this point, I decided to delay the programming project until Monday. Then, I will attempt the same process, only using codepage instead of Sage Online.

Does anyone have a suggestion for how to improve this?