Google’s Chrome browser has a lot of development happening around it these days, and some of the most impressive involves apps for teaching and learning math and science. In fact, Chrome has dedicated an entire category of its Web Store to exactly this: “Teacher and Admin Tools”. I have several apps from this category installed on my browser, and I review some of them below. Note that these apps are all FREE and are designed to be easy to install, try out, and then uninstall if you don’t like them or don’t find them helpful. To install any of these: simply navigate to the Chrome Web Store from a blank tab in your Chrome browser and search for the app by name. The installation is automatic, and the newly-installed app appears by default on any new blank tabs you open in the browser.
Daum Equation Editor:
This app is designed to do two major things: create equations and format them according to realistic science and math publication needs. The app allows you to create equations from within your browser tab and to export these as images for import into other applications of for export in LaTEX format. As an app for printer-ready equations for the scientists and engineers creating conference proceedings papers, this app is great.
However, this is where it is weakest in the teaching and learning domain. I have done a lot of equation editing in my time, and I must say that this app has quite a steep learning curve on it. Compared to good old MathType, I can’t use this app nearly as easily or as quickly. There are differences in how the two apps work that are maddening. For example, if I have typed a numerator and then want to insert a denominator, in MathType I simply select the numerator, then click the button to create a fraction. MathType keeps my selected element as the numerator and then inserts a blank denominator below it. Not so in Equation Editor, which inserts a blank fraction next to what you have selected. What I have found quite helpful, however, is that the images that Equation Editor exports as high-quality and scalable PNG images, which can be used in many applications aside from Microsoft Word. This is where it has MathType beat. I have used such images in this site and in self-paced tests for high school students. I am not done with this app quite yet, but I feel that with certain tweaks, this app could go from useful to great.
Geometry students often struggle with constructions, the physical manipulation of compass and ruler in a logical sequence of steps to create regular geometric figures. Teachers also struggle to demonstrate how to perform constructions, especially in a distance learning or 21st century way. Enter GeoGebra, an app designed to create and use dynamic geometry worksheets that may be imbedded in wikis, webpages, and other electronic learning modalities.
This tool is quite neat, allowing not only generation of constructions that can be changed to see how they affect different shapes and figures, but also the inclusion of the dynamism into other dynamic media. It also includes a direct link between the geometry and the algebra (which appears in the left pane), helping students make an explicit link between what they have learned and what they are learning. The only thing better than this would be automatic inclusion of state standards! I am still messing around with this app in my copious free time, but am impressed with what I have seen so far.
This is another app that is helpful to have around. It is used to create circuit schematics quickly and easily, and I have found the interface to be fairly intuitive.
However, my one pet peeve so far is that the wire function does not lock to the end of the circuit elements – you have to click and drag to make wires, and then manually line them up with the circuit elements. There also doesn’t seem to be a way to ensure the wires are in straight and perpendicular lines, allowing for some very messy schematics. Nevertheless, I often find that I need a way to draw a circuit quickly for inclusion in some working document, and this tool allows me to do that. I can see it being quite useful for robotics teams, rocketry teams, and physics and technical ed. teachers.
I look forward to downloading and playing with other apps for Chrome. Are there any that you like particularly for teaching learning science? Let me know!