5. Replace a Graphing Calculator
Graphing (also known as “graphical”) calculators are great, but they’re damn expensive. If your school allows laptops in class, boot up Linux and use one of these apps. As you’ll see, they are much more than just replacements for a graphing calculator.
Another numero uno from KDEdu, KAlgebra can plot functions as 2D and 3D graphs, and export the results in several formats. You can use the Console tab and its two modes (Calculate and Evaluate) to input expressions and perform operations. Results and variables are tracked in the sidebar for your convenience, and KAlgebra also supports syntax autocompletion. The Dictionary tab can help you refresh your math knowledge.
Gnuplot also lets you graph functions in 2D and 3D. It’s a CLI tool (you give it instructions in a terminal window) that outputs graphs either in a separate window or into one of many supported file formats, including SVG, PDF, PostScript, DXF, PNG, JPG, and even animated GIF. Gnuplot offersexhaustive documentation and usage examples, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting started.
GeoGebra could probably replace all math equipment you have, not just a graphing calculator. It’s afull-fledged math software that you can use for algebra, calculus, statistics, geometry, and graphing.
The interface is divided into several Views (Algebra, Spreadsheet, Probability Calculator…) according to their function, and each view offers different Perspectives (Geometry, 3D Graphics…). You construct objects by typing expressions into the Input Bar and selecting various elements and dragging them on the screen. GeoGebra’s selling point is the dynamic, interactive approach—you can change anything on-the-fly, observe the consequences, and learn from them.
6. Become a Math Whiz
We are now entering the domain of numerical analysis, symbolic computation, and computer algebra systems. It’s an understatement to say that these apps would be an overkill for your daily math needs. However, there are scientists-to-be among us, and they might be looking for free and open source alternatives to MATLAB and Mathematica. Here’s what Linux has to show for it.
Cantor relies on plugins and different backends to provide various features, including plotting, differentiation and integration, statistical computing, and equation solving. It supports LaTeX-style formatting, autocompletion and syntax highlighting. The interface is similar to KAlgebra, with a panel showing available variables and helpful descriptions of commands and functions.
Genius has its own scripting language called GEL in which you can write custom functions. You can use it for all kinds of math wizardry—from statistics and combinatorics to 2D and 3D plotting. Genius can export results into LaTeX and MathML formats, among others, and it supports matrices, vectors, equation solving, and Boolean expressions.
Octave also has its own programming language and lets you write your own programs. It supports a wide range of operations, from working with nonlinear equations and polynomials to integration, matrices, strings, and graphing. Octave got a graphical interface only recently, so now is the right time to try it out.
Scilab is very similar to MATLAB and aims to be as compatible with it as possible. The full list of its features and capabilities is probably longer than this article, and it includes support for polynomials and rational functions, genetic algorithms, statistics, 2D and 3D data visualization, solving different kinds of equations, and working with matrices. Scilab can be upgraded with external modules, and you can even develop your own extensions.
SageMath is your super-powerful math notebook that you can use for linear algebra, combinatorics, calculus, 2D and 3D graphs, animated plots, statistics, symbolic computation, and more. It has a browser-based graphical interface and an online version that you can try out.
SageMath features its own formula editor, which is compatible with LaTeX. You can easily share your Sage notebooks and customize their appearance with CSS. The reference manual is an excellent resource if you want to know more about SageMath.
7. Use a Specialized Linux Distro
It shouldn’t surprise you there are so many math apps for Linux; after all, the OS itself was created in research labs. According to TOP500.org, today it powers 97% of the world’s supercomputers, as well as workstations and servers of NASA, CERN, and the Internet Archive. In such large-scale environments, it’s easier to deploy software in bulk than install apps one by one. That is why many institutions rely on scientific Linux distros, one of which is Mathbuntu.
Technically, Mathbuntu is a collection of math textbooks and installation scripts that help you download and install a bunch of math software automatically. Most of the apps mentioned here are bundled with Mathbuntu, so it’s a practical solution if you want to grab them all at once.