Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Calculations On The Fly...InstaCalc

Calculators can be fun. Graphing calculators can be even more fun. We can even teach our kids to do calculations in Excel. But what if you want to create calculations for specific events like to see if calculations mentioned in a literature book actually work or students want to work out debt to earnings ratios for a high school level economics class. What do you do? You turn to one of the greatest Web 2.o tools around...InstaCalc.

From The InstaCalc Blog- "It's called InstaCalc for a reason: answers appear as you type. Your time is important, the computer's time is not. Spend less time waiting, more time doing. Normal calculators and spreadsheets make you type and press Enter. Change the numbers, press Enter. Change the numbers again, press Enter. Why this extra step? Imagine having to press "Enter" every time you typed a key in Word. Decades of spreadsheets and desk calculators have conditioned us to tolerate this pause between entering numbers and getting an answer. Break free."

See your work as you go, just like working on paper. You can see how you got an answer and change the numbers in real-time. You don't have to switch between viewing a cell's results and editing the details.Regular calculators erase your equation to show you the results. You have to keep track of previous results yourself - will you write them down each time? And if you want to change an answer, you need to retype the entire calculation.Sure, spreadsheets can have multiple equations, but they only show you one cell at a time. For the other cells you see a number like 81.879 and have to guess or remember how it came to be.

There are two features I really like. The first is readable equations. If you type 6.6 Billion into a cell, your result will be written as 6,600,000,000. We know that students sometimes have a problem learning complicated equations. They can get lost in the flow and don't understand how everything fits together. InstaCalc makes this process easier with the readable equation feature. Check out the example below with the Distance equation.

The other feature that is really cool is two-fold. Once you create a custom Calc you can share it with the world or you can embed it, live, on your website or blog. When you share it it becomes searchable on the site so others can find it. You can also share the Calc via a link. Head over there now and check out the interesting Calcs created. Below you can see an example of a live Calc I have embedded from the site.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Steven, just wanted to say thanks for the mention and detailed writeup. Glad you're enjoying the site!