Last week I was working with a group of teachers who were creating a common assessment for our district. As they wrote questions, I offered to help with graphics if need be. One group asked me to produce a graph illustrating y = x, for x>-1. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to do with the software available to me. After trying several graphing applications available to me, I ended up drawing it in Word and inserting it into the test. It looked like this:
Before I got to the point of needing to use Word, I tried several applications that I use frequently. The first one I tried is from Edmonton’s own Ron Blond, who wrote Graphing Tool for the Learn Alberta website. I wasn’t able to limit the domain. This one does very well as a tool for student exploration, because it is easy to add sliders for investigation, but in terms of graphs to insert on tests, it didn’t meet my needs. My attempt looked like this:
Next, I tried the Microsoft Math Add-In. Again, this one is useful with its ability to add sliders for student exploration, but I still couldn’t limit the domain. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it quickly.
So I threw out a shout on Twitter, and got several suggestions. I have tried most of them. Here is my review. Please note that I am reviewing these solely based on their ability to create the graphs I need to insert into my notes, worksheets, and exams. I will play around with them some more and in a future post I will review their abilities as interactive exploration tools for students, which may very well change which one I view as my favorite.
Matt Ruden suggested Omnigraph, which i have since discovered is a Mac application, and an iPad application. I paid $15 for the iPad application, and it is pretty slick. It creates really nice graphs, right on the iPad. I’ll just use the one I made that is similar to all the rest here, but I was able to create some pretty neat piecewise functions and some great shaded bell curves. My biggest complaint is that I can’t create a graph from an equation with it.
Kris Reid concurred with many of the other suggestions, but also suggested using Geogebra. I have used it many times, but never thought to import a graph from it into an exam. I couldn’t get an arrow on the end of the ray, but the graph is pretty nice.
Sam Shah and Kris Reed both mentioned Winplot. How come no one ever told me about Winplot before? It seems to do everything I need it to do. Sam warns that it has a learning curve, but it didn’t take me too long to figure out how to make exactly what I needed this time.
Don Chandler recommended Advanced Grapher. I looked at it online, and it looks pretty good, but I wasn’t going to pay $23 for something that I didn’t need anymore now that I found the other two that will suit my purposes.
So, to summarize, I like Omnigraph because it will do stuff like this:
I also like Winplot because it is a little easier to import graphs into the documents I want them for.