Web Apps For You

Hi!

I want to make a web app for you for free.

If you know what I do, then you know that I work as a consulting mathematician in a variety of industries and I teach as part-time adjunct faculty. I’ve always enjoyed teaching and staying engaged in the education world and I love to work with teachers. I’ve had a highly fortunate 2-12 educational experience (I have no memories of kindergarten or first grade) made possible in no small part by my parents, but also the army of education professionals who strove to create an environment of learning, rather than compliance to edu-bureaucracy.

Outside of my educational experience and expertise in mathematics, I make a living writing quantitative programs — i.e., computer-based number crunching. I learned how to program, basically, for free. Obviously, I had to put my time in, so in that sense it wasn’t free, but outside of a basic course in programming in college, I’ve learned everything else from the internet — by reading blogs, getting lost on *.stackexchange, reading the programming languages’ tutorials and help pages, etc. Even obtaining the programming languages and a basic IDE (integrated development environment) cost nothing (Python, C++, Java, JavaScript, PHP, etc.). There are a lot of people who made that possible and likely many of them just do it on a volunteer basis. Many programmers who aren’t involved in the active maintenance of a programming language develop wonderful external libraries and just give it away. They may very well have grant funding, but the basic premise is that of making things available to all.

So, I want to be able to give something back to the world in a similar way — and that thing is to make a web app for you. Now, I need to spell a lot of things out to properly define what it is that I can do, so please have a read through the next several paragraphs, but the basic gist is that if you are an educator and you would like something made for a lesson you want to give, then I want to help you.

Here are some examples:

  1. @tritonkory broadcasted on Twitter that she was looking for educators from around the world to send something to her class for her “100 days of school” celebration. So I made her this star drawing program. I’m told the kids loved it.
  2. I made this simple word calculator for @bill_m_4.
  3. And here was some infinite practice for my Intermediate Algebra students on topics I knew they were a little weak on.

If you had a chance to look at those “apps”, then you’ll perhaps get the idea of some basics of what I can do. I’ve tried to antcipate what the FAQs for this would be, so here goes:

What can I request?
Anything. Sort of. There are a lot of great websites and free software that may already offer standard things like mortgage calculators, graphing utilities, etc. So, if you want something that you can’t find, by all means make the request. I will probably avoid any request that will require login credentials to other websites — too many crazy things can happen and I don’t want to get tangled with what happens if there is a security breach.

What grade level can you write stuff for?
Generally, any grade level. But that’s really not the constraint — just because it is for a kindergarten class doesn’t mean it’ll be easy, in fact, it is probably the opposite, since more thought has to go into the design of the user experience.

Can I request something that doesn’t have to do with math?
Yes!! I don’t know everything about everything, so if you can provide some necessary background reading, that would be great!

If I make a request, when would you have it done by?
I want to aim to get you what you want within a week of the request, but that’s a general guideline, not a rule. It is certainly not something that you should plan on. I also have no idea of what the volume of requests will be.

How will I know when you’re done?
I’ll send you a message on Twitter. If you’re not on, then join. If you are on, then just include your twitter handle when you submit your request. Follow me if you want.

Where do I submit my request?
In the comments section below.

Where can I find what you made for me?
I’ll probably make a page called mathmisery.com/webappsforyou/ or something. If there are enough requests, I’ll update this response with a fixed location. This is going to be a work in progress.

I was hoping you could have made X, but I saw you made Y. Why the difference?
Welcome to software development. See this tree swing comic. I’ll try my best to get you what you want and I may send you a message or two for clarification. But if you can be explicit in the request, that will certainly help!

If I make a request, will it be done by the next day?
Odds are, urgent requests won’t be met. Sadly, I still do have to earn an income and in that vein my clients’ needs will take precedence.

What if my request is too complicated?
Eh. Just make the request anyway. Sometimes what you may think is complicated is actually easy and what you think is easy is actually a real headache. Can you write a program that generates random algebra problems? Yes, that’s likely going to be simple. Can you write a program that will take an uploaded image and convert it to text? That’s going to be a royal pain. For really complicated requests, I may have to decline or … see next question.

Can I hire you through your company?
Yes. Contact me.

What’s the catch here?
There’s no catch. At least none that I see. Outside of helping people because I too have been helped, I get at least the following:

  • It’s fun for me.
  • I get to continue to learn about web development. I have a fairly good handle on it, but as is the case with anything, I want to get better. And writing software for others will force that.
  • This is also my way of networking / interacting with my readers. Right now, the conversation is fairly one-way. I write stuff and people read it, sometimes they leave comments. That’s what a blog does at minimum, but it can do more.

How long are you going to do this for?
For as long as I can! If I am overwhelmed by the volume request, then that’ll be great and I’ll try to pull in some extra help. In a nutshell, if you are an educator and have found yourself saying, “I wish there were an online demo / app / etc I could share with my students on <insert lesson topic>.” Then make that request. The idea is that you need something relatively small, nuanced, and specific, but nobody would have made it.

What are the legal matters?
Without getting overly pedantic in the wording, please do not request anything illegal as defined in the US. Whatever I develop is “as is” and no warranties or guarantees of any sort are made. I reserve the right to modify, alter, or outright remove anything I’ve made. I make no guarantees on deadlines, deliverables, functionality, etc. nor do I accept any liability for not meeting a request, in whole or in part. I do not accept any liability for intended or unintended use of what I wrote. Basically, I want this interaction to be simple, kind, and human. You request something and I will try to make it for you as well as I reasonably can, but I don’t want any adversarial interactions.

6 thoughts on “Web Apps For You

  1. Shai McGowan

    I would like an app that shows a cone being intersected with a plane that produces all of the conic sections, a point, a circle, a parabola, an ellipse, and a hyperbola. I teach conic sections to my Adv. Alg 2 kids, and would like them to see this in action. They will be cutting Rice Krispy cones to make these sections on their own, and would like to have the app to show them AFTER they attempt on their own. I can use a grapher to do something similar, but something my students could access on the web would be even cooler.

    Thanks,
    Shai
    @slm12

    Reply
    1. Manan Shah Post author

      It’s on the list! I’ve been horribly behind on these, though! This one is a challenge though.

      Reply
  2. Celeste Sinclair

    Do you think you could make a web app that would allow students to drag and drop dots on a dot plot and then see how that affects the mean and standard deviation?

    I think it’s great that you’re willing to donate your time and expertise for random people on the Internet.

    Celeste
    (@mysterious_jedi)

    Reply
  3. Laura Kavalier

    Hey! I’ve been searching with no success for an animation which demonstrates the following:
    A string hanging a pulley, with two weights on either end. System is released and heaving object falls to the floor. The light object then CONTINUES its journey upward due to momentum and the string goes slack, and then falls back down and string goes taught again. I want to be able to play the animation in slow motion to show how string goes slack once heavy object hits floor. Any chance you could create this please?!

    Reply
    1. Manan Shah Post author

      Hey Laura,

      Can you point me to some of the requisite physics involved? A simple animation of a pulley system with an object on either end is likely doable, but demonstrating the string going slack and then taut will get fairly complicated (at least based on what I know). I searched some of the physics simulation engines that exist and they show the first half only.

      Reply
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