Computational mathematics out of the box with nteract

What if you could quickly and beautifully demonstrate computational mathematics in the mathematics classroom?

nteract is a desktop notebook app that mixes prose with executable code. At version 0.7.1 and for macOS only, it’s very much in the alpha stage of development.

[Update: nteract is also available on Windows and Linux!]

What gets my attention about nteract is that, out of the box, it allows me to demonstrate and teach computational mathematics, such as numerical analysis, with ease. The app is light and clean—perfect for the classroom.

Here’s an example of a recursive function that implements the Babylonian method for calculating square roots.

nteract Babylonian method (Node)
Implementing the Babylonian method in JavaScript with nteract.

The prose is written with Markdown syntax for formatting and you can include \LaTeX for nicely typeset mathematics. The files are Jupyter Notebooks, which are incredible but a little too advanced for the secondary mathematics classroom.

nteract ships with support for JavaScript only. To write in other languages, you need to install Python and then a kernel for the language you want to write in. That gets complicated, although you can start to do some pretty cool things. For example, matlibplot and Plotly.

My next goal is to investigate just how far nteract can go out of the box as a tool for computational mathematics and visualisation in the secondary mathematics classroom.

Mathematics is not computer science and we can’t just drop programming into mathematics curriculums. However, I believe computational mathematics must be a part of the 21st century mathematics classroom and nteract looks like a promising solution.