You are here

Graph Explorer

Alan Cooper

This applet draws graphs of user-defined functions. It can handle multiple polynomial, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions (including inverse trigonometric functions). All graphs can be panned, zoomed, and recentered. There is also a detailed introduction to using the applet, and a version of the applet  with the instructions in a separate frame, as well as a help file, list of suggested activities, etc.

Alan Cooper is in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Langara College .


  • Class demo, especially for issues involving transformations of graphs or the role of numerical parameters in an equation
  • Student use, either as an alternative to a graphing calculator, or incorporated into a directed lab exploration activity


Any high school or early post-secondary mathematics, from Grade 8 through first year calculus

Open Graph Explorer in a new window


Operating systems supported: Windows 95/98/NT/ME, MacOS 5/6/7/8/9
(The MACs may require the jre to be updated, as early versions didn't always render correctly.)

Browsers: Internet Explorer 4/4.5/5/5.5, Netscape 4/4.7/6


Initiated by the author as an exercise for learning JAVA and for exploring possible modes of user interaction, the GraphExplorer allows animated zoom and pan with a background grid intended to reinforce the user's perception of these motions. The user can define a number of function graphs, and numerical parameters in the formulae can be adjusted and/or set in 'motion' to create animated graphs. The applet also permits definition of movable points and lines and the attachment of draggable points as 'beads' on the plotted graphs, thus supporting exercises involving secant slopes which may help build intuition surrounding the derivative, for example.

A more recent version, requiring JAVA 1.1, has a more modular program design, which makes it easy to construct alternative versions of the applet and to use its various components as java beans in a suitable RAD building environment such as ESCOT. In addition to working towards making the GraphExplorer and its parts into ESCOT components, I have been working on using the recently developed JavaMath api to make calls to a server-based computer algebra system (Maple) in order to perform operations (such as symbolic computation of intercepts) that might be difficult to do within a small applet, and I have also started working on a shared version in which separated users may work with the same graph window (much like a chat session or virtual whiteboard).

© 2001 by Alan Cooper
Published January 2001

Alan Cooper, "Graph Explorer," Convergence (September 2004)