Math is tough but Microsoft has just given us a free graphical symbolic calculator to download. It can solve equations, do calculus, work with matrices and plot the results.
As they say, why pay more?.
Microsoft Mathematics is a interactive tool for doing mathematics and it can do both numeric and symbolic calculations. Give it an equation and it can solve it. Give it a function and it will integrate or differentiate it for you and offer to graph the result. It is an amazing tool and it's easy to use.
It is intended for use by students and promoted by Microsoft Education and previously sold for around $20. Now the new Version 4 is available free to download. There hasn't really been much information forthcoming from Microsoft about it and it is almost as if it has been slipped out in the hope that no one will notice.
After you have downloaded it you can use it like a simple calculator to do arithmetic, advanced arithmetic even, but you can also use it to do symbolic maths. You can type in an equation and ask it for the solution and in many cases it makes a sensible attempt at an answer. It can do matrix calculations, algebra and calculus. You need the derivative or integral of some function - just type it in and the program will perform the symbolic manipulation for you. It also draws graphs of functions and data and ... well the list goes on.
It also comes with a good help file, tutorials and it supports ink input so you can write equations into the edit box.
It isn't as good as Mathematica or Maple but it does enough for many users not to need to go beyond it. Given that it is free it also represents a bargain. And yes it has a multibase conversion function so you can use it to do programming calculations. It's a great educational tool but it is also suitable for serious calculations.
The only problem is that there is no scripting language for it and no API specification, so it looks as if it can't be easily extended. As it is a .NET WPF application the usual techniques for taking control of it are unlikely to work. This is a shame because with a scripting language it could do so much more.
As it stands Microsoft has just given us a free graphical symbolic calculator - why not download it and give it a try.
32- and 64-bit versions are available and it runs under just about everything from Windows XP SP3 up.
Microsoft Mathematics 4.0 download