Session S51d (Wednesday, 2pm, Thomas 118)

P846: Web based symbolic mathematics software in chemistry classes.

Jonathan Gutow (University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, USA)

Symbolic mathematics is embedded in the teaching of chemistry at all levels.  Just as calculators have improved the speed, reproducibly and accuracy of arithmetic,  modern symbolic mathematics software can do the same for symbolic manipulations.  As with calculators, spectrometers, glassware and other “tools of the trade,” our students need to get experience with this software to enhance their learning and prepare them for the future.  The  most widely used commercial packages are MathCad, Maple and Mathematica.   Some exercises that use these pieces of software for learning and solving symbolic relationships important to chemistry are available from the ChemEd Digital Library.  Using these commercial packages presents some problems: issues exist with distributing exercises, getting the exercises back for correction or using automatic correction, plus the high cost of both site licenses and student copies of the software can be a problem.  All three of these issues are addressed by using the open-source symbolic mathematics package Sage (www.sagemath.org), which provides both a server based solution for use in  class assignments or collaborative work and a way to install individual copies of the software on student computers at no cost.  Some of the ways the author has used Sage in physical chemistry classes, capabilities of the package that might be useful to others and some contributions the author has made to this open-source project will be presented.

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