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Using Wolfram|Alpha To Enhance Math, Science, Language, Social Studies And More In ActivInspire

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by MARK WEST 1/27/10

Mac Tips

Special Keys

The Mac Command Key

You probably call this the "Apple Key", but it's officially called the Command Key and it is located near your spacebar. It is used on a Mac much like the control key is used on Microsoft Windows®; example: control-c on Windows copies and on a Mac we use command-c; control-v pastes on Windows and command-v pastes on Mac OS.

The Option Key

The Option Key is located near the Command Key and is sometimes called the ALT key. This key can frustrate a Windows user, as it doesn't work as a Windows ALT key does (you'll often use the Command Key on Mac where ALT is used in Windows), such as when tabbing through open applications: on Windows it's ALT-Tab, on a Mac it's Command-Tab.

The Control Key

The Control Key is located near the Command Key and has special funtions on a Mac (see "Right Clicking" below).

Exiting A Bad Program

On Windows, Alt+F4 will quickly terminate a program.

On Mac OS, Command+Q will quickly terminate a program.

The "3-Finger Salute"

On Windows, when a program stops behaving properly, you can press Control+Alt+Delete to invoke the Task Manager to make an application stop.

On Mac OS, you can accomplish the same thing by pressing Command+Option+Escape; this invokes the Force Quit menu and you can make applications stop.

"Right Clicking"

Sometimes you need to right click. On most computers it's easy, as they come with a two-button mouse. On Mac OS, you typically find a single-button mouse.

You can plug a two-button mouse in to a Mac and it will work. The reason is because two-button mice work on Unix and Mac OS is a Unix variant that uses parts from FreeBSD's and NetBSD's implementation of Unix.

You can also "right click" on a Mac with a single button mouse. To do so, you can do either of the following:

  1. Press and hold the Control Key while clicking.
  2. (This one only works if you have a Mac with a touchpad - usually a laptop) place two fingers on the touchpad while clicking.

Using Wolfram|Alpha To Enhance Math, Science, Language, Social Studies And More In ActivInspire

Sometimes the ActivInspire resource library doesn't have everything you want. In my library, for example, there is square root.as2 which places this symbol on the flipchart page:

a square root symbol, no bar over the top and encased in a green box. UUUGH!

Which is functional, but there's no bar on top. Sure I can draw one, but I'd like something easier and something that could show the complete equation, like this:

a properly formed equation with a square root; square root of x-2 equals 11

Well, there's a way to get it (after all you're looking at it, above). But it's a little bit of a kluge, yet it works.


According to their website, "Wolfram|Alpha's long-term goal is to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone. We aim to collect and curate all objective data; implement every known model, method, and algorithm; and make it possible to compute whatever can be computed about anything. Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries."

Wolfram alpha not only can solve queries, it can display mathematical symbols very nicely. That's what it does.

To get this:

I typed Solve sqrt(x-2)=11 into the search field. You can see it's output here:

So how do you put that it ActivInspire?

Do not try to drag it, it won't work.

Right click (or control-click) on the equation displayed beneath the words "Input interpretation:" In Firefox, the choice you want is Copy Image. You can then paste it into ActivInspire.

If you prefer to use Safari, close Safari and open Firefox (just kidding); you can do the "screen capture" trick (click the link to learn how of you do not already know how to capture an area of your computer desktop).

Windows users use Firefox's copy image or they can grab a screen capture by pressing the PRINT SCREEN button their keyboards. You can use a bitmap editor to crop the image down.

What Else Can Wolfram|Alpha Do?

(Some examples, not everything it can do; it's a computational search engine making it a great tool for educators).


Calculate spans of time - how long is 7:45 to 3:15 (as if you didn't know already)

Differential equation example y"+y=0


Plotting Biological Genome Sequences: AAGCTAGCTAGC

Chromosome 13


Chemical data (such as carbon), including periodic table, Mohs hardness, density, color, magnetic type, electrical type and much more


Electricity - Solving root-mean-square voltage : AC source 110V


Finding Longitude and Latitude Coordinates on a Map (36.16N 85.64W - Baxter, TN)


Finding n-grams (such as bigrams and trigrams): Alas, poor Yorick...

Music (or is it Philosophy?)

how many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man?

Space Science

Looking for a crater on Mercury? Imhotep's one... it even has it's latitude and longitude on Mercury.

Don't know a crater on Mercury? Search for 'Mercury craters' and pick from a list.

There is a whole list of examples at their website: