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Interactive Mathematics on the Web: LiveMath - What is LiveMath?

Carl Spitznagel

Have you ever wished you could post interactive mathematics on the web but gave up the idea because you had no time to learn to program in Java? Then LiveMath may be just what you have dreamed about!

Carl R. Spitznagel is Professor of Math and Computer Science at John Carroll University.

LiveMath is a relatively inexpensive computer algebra system that has evolved from the software products previously known as Theorist, MathView, and MathPlus. If any of these names sound familiar, it may be because until 1999 this software was marketed by Waterloo Maple Software, although for a number of years it saw little further development. Its present owner, Theorist Interactive, LLC, is dedicated to continuing to develop and enhance the product.

What is special about LiveMath is not that it can serve as a desktop symbolic manipulator and graphics processor -- every computer algebra system can do that. What makes LiveMath unique is that it is designed to function in a spreadsheet-like fashion, in which a change to a previously written "proposition" causes a cascade of immediate changes to ripple through the resulting "conclusions," thereby allowing the user to interact with the software in a way that is not possible with most other computer algebra systems. [Editor's note: This spreadsheet-like behavior is also available in Mathcad, a more general but more expensive system.] Although this, by itself, would still not be enough to make me interested in dabbling with yet another CAS, the truly unique thing about LiveMath is that its inherent interactivity can be placed on the web without any programming or other specialized skills, and with relatively little cost. Anyone who has ever written a basic web page can learn to create interactive mathematical notebooks with LiveMath, and make them available over the web!

The one hitch is that, in order to interact with a LiveMath notebook on the web, you must first install a free browser plug-in, which can be obtained from the LiveMath download site. After you install the correct plug-in for your operating system, you will be able to interact with the examples listed in the remainder of this review. Please do that now.

Editor's note, 11/04:  For purposes of reading this review, you can skip the download step.  In the 2.5 years since the review appeared, changes in the LiveMath product have rendered older LiveMath files (including Professor Spitznagel's examples) inoperable.  You will still be able to get from this review a sense of how the software works, and you can get current information from the LiveMath site.  DAS

Published May, 2002
© 2002 by Carl R. Spitznagel

Carl Spitznagel, "Interactive Mathematics on the Web: LiveMath - What is LiveMath?," Convergence (November 2004)