Algebra is the bane of many a student, but it is surprisingly useful when it comes to electronics. Sure, you can just memorize all the permutations of things like Ohm’s law. But it is better if you can remember one form and deduce the others on the fly.

There are many occasions where you — as our old Algebra teacher used to say — need to use what you know to get what you don’t know. The gold standard, of course, is a computer program called Mathematica. For home and student use, the software is “only” about $160-$600, but commercial versions range from about $1,000 to nearly $8,000. Of course, there are free alternatives, and the one we’re looking at today is Mathics. It will run in your browser or as a desktop application powered by Python, and it’s available for free.

The program does a nice job of displaying mathematical formulae and you can get an idea of its power by visit the online version. which has examples if you click the question-mark in the upper right and look for the fourth item down. There’s also a standalone version of the online help.

We did have a little trouble with some of the gallery examples timing out, as well as the site certificate being expired. We also had a bit of difficulty remembering the linear algebra classes we took a long time ago! If you want something easy to play with try this:

Solve[4x+3==20,x]

Don’t forget to press Shift+Enter in the browser to get the solution.

Under the hood, MathJax and SymPy do a lot of the heavy lifting. In fact, we imagine a lot of the program’s intended audience would wind up using Jupyter notebooks with Python underneath. Of course, there are copies of Wolfram software on stock Raspberry Pi’s, too.