Maplesoft Blog

The Maplesoft blog contains posts coming from the heart of Maplesoft. Find out what is coming next in the world of Maple, and get the best tips and tricks from the Maple experts.

On this day 181 years ago, Christian Doppler first presented the effect that would later become known as the Doppler effect. In his paper “On the coloured light of the binary stars and some other stars of the heavens”, he proposed (with a great deal of confidence and remarkably little evidence) that the observed frequency of a wave changes if either the source or observer is moving. Luckily for Doppler, he did turn out to be right! Or at least, right about the effect, not right about supernovas actually being binary stars that are moving really fast. The effect was experimentally confirmed a few years later, and it’s now used in a whole variety of interesting applications.

To learn more about how the Doppler effect works, take a look at this Maple MathApp. You can adjust the speed of the jet to see how the frequency of the sound changes, and add an observer to see what they perceive the sound as. You can even break the sound barrier, although the poor observer might not like that so much!


A screenshot of a Maple MathApp, showing a visual representation of sound waves coming off a moving jet, with sliders to adjust the speed.


For Maple users, you can also check out the MathApp on the relativistic Doppler effect. You’ll find it in the Natural Sciences section, under Astronomy and Earth Sciences. Settle in to watch those colours come to life!

A screenshot of a Maple MathApp showing a spectrum of colours, with sliders to control the initial wavelength of the light and a dial showing the current velocity of the viewer


But wait, I mentioned interesting applications, didn’t I? And don’t worry, I’m not just here to talk about sirens moving past you or figuring out the speed of stars (although admittedly, that one is pretty interesting too). No, I’m talking about robots. Some robots make use of the Doppler effect to help monitor their own speed, by bouncing sound waves off the floor and measuring the frequency of the reflected wave. A large change in frequency means that robot is zooming!

The Doppler effect is also used in the medical field—Doppler ultrasonography uses the Doppler effect to determine and visualize the movement of tissues and body fluids like blood. It works by bouncing sound waves off of moving objects (like red blood cells) and measuring the result. The difference in frequency tells you the speed and direction of the blood flow, in accordance with the Doppler effect! Pretty neat, if you ask me.

And like any good scientific phenomena, the Doppler effect can be used for both work and pleasure. The Leslie speaker is a type of speaker invented in the 1940s that modifies the sound by rotating a baffle chamber, or drum, in front of the loudspeakers. The change in frequency dictated by the Doppler effect causes the pitch to fluctuate, creating a distinct sound that I can only describe as “woobly”. The speaker can be set to either “chorus” or “tremolo”, depending on how much woobliness the user wants. It was typically used with the Hammond organ, and you can hear it in action here!

You know who else uses the Doppler effect? Bats. Since they rely on echolocation to get around, they need some way to account for the fact that the returning sound waves won’t be at the same pitch that they were sent out at. This fantastic video explains it far better than I ever could, and involves putting bats on a swing, which I think should be enough of a recommendation all on its own.

That’s it for our little foray into the Doppler effect, although there’s still a lot more that could be said about it. Try checking out those Maple MathApps for inspiration—who knows, maybe you’ll find a whole new use for this fascinating effect!

Probability distributions can be used to predict many things in life: how likely you are to wait more than 15 minutes at a bus stop, the probability that a certain number of credit card transactions are fraudulent, how likely it is for your favorite sports team to win at least three games in a row, and many more. 

Different situations call for different probability distributions. For instance, probability distributions can be divided into two main categories – those defined by discrete random variables and those defined by continuous random variables. Discrete probability distributions describe random variables that can only take on countable numbers of values, while continuous probability distributions are for random variables that take values from continuums, such as the real number line.

Maple Learn’s Probability Distributions section provides introductions, examples, and simulations for a variety of discrete and continuous probability distributions and how they can be used in real life. 

One of the distributions highlighted in Maple Learn’s Example Gallery is the binomial distribution. The binomial distribution is a discrete probability distribution that models the number of n Bernoulli trials that will end in a success.

This distribution is used in many real-life scenarios, including the fraudulent credit card transactions scenario mentioned earlier. All the information needed to apply this distribution is the number of trials, n, and the probability of success, p. A common usage of the binomial distribution is to find the probability that, for a recently produced batch of products, the number that are defective crosses a certain threshold; if the probability of having too many defective products is high enough, a company may decide to test each product individually rather than spot-checking, or they may decide to toss the entire batch altogether.

An interesting feature of the binomial distribution is that it can be approximated using a different type of distribution. If the number of trials, n, is large enough and the probability of success, p, is small enough, a Poisson Approximation to the Binomial Distribution can be applied to avoid potentially complex calculations. 

To see some binomial distribution calculations in action and how accurate the probabilities supplied by the distribution are, try out the Binomial Distribution Simulation document and see how the Law of Large Numbers relates to your results. 

You can also try your hand at some Binomial Distribution Example Problems to see some realistic examples and calculations.

Visit the Binomial Distribution: Overview document for a more in-depth explanation of the distribution. The aforementioned Probability Distributions section also contains overviews for the geometric distribution, Poisson distribution, exponential distribution, and several others you may find interesting!

2-dimensional motion and displacement are some of the first topics that high school students learn in their physics class. In my physics classes, I loved solving 2-dimensional displacement problems because they require the use of so many different math concepts: trigonometry, coordinate conversions, and vector operations are all necessary to solve these problems. Though displacement problems can seem complicated, they are easy to visualize.
For example, below is a visualization of the displacement of someone who walked 10m in the direction 30o North of East, then walked 15m in the direction 45o South of East:

From just looking at the diagram, most people could identify that the final position is some angle Southeast of the initial position and perhaps estimate the distance between these two positions. However, finding an exact solution requires various computations, which are all outlined in the Directional Displacement Example Problem document on Maple Learn.

Solving a problem like this is a great way to practice solving triangles, adding vectors, computing vector norms, and converting points to and from polar form. If you want to practice these math skills, try out Maple Learn’s Directional Displacement Quiz; this document randomly generates displacement questions for you to solve. Have fun practicing!


In March of 2023, two high school students, Calcea Johnson, and Ne’Kiya Jackson, presented a new proof of the Pythagorean Theorem at the American Mathematical Society’s Annual Spring Southeastern Sectional Meeting. These two young women are challenging the conventions of math as we know it.
The Pythagorean Theorem states that in a right angle triangle, the sum of the squares of the legs is equal to the square of the hypotenuse: 

The theorem has been around for over two thousand years and has been proven hundreds of times with many different methods. So what makes the Johnson-Jackson proof special? The proof is one of the first to use trigonometry.
For years, mathematicians have been convinced that a trigonometric proof of the Pythagorean Theorem is impossible because much of trigonometry is based upon the Pythagorean Theorem itself (an example of circular reasoning).
That said, some results in trigonometry are independent of the Pythagorean Theorem, namely the law of sines, and the sine and cosine ratios; the latter is a result that 12-year-old Einstein used in his trigonometric proof of the theorem.
Though all the details of the Johnson-Jackson proof have not been made public, there was enough information for me to recreate the proof in Maple Learn. The idea of the proof is to construct a right angle triangle with an infinite series of congruent right angle triangles (the first of which has side lengths a, b, and c). Then, using the sine ratio, solve for the hypotenuse lengths of each small congruent triangle. To explore this construction see Johnson and Jackson’s Triangle Construction on Maple Learn. 


Next, find the side lengths of the large triangle (A and B) by evaluating an infinite sum (composed of the hypotenuse lengths of the small congruent triangles). Finally, apply the law of sines to the isosceles triangle made from the first 2 congruent triangles. After simplifying this expression, the Pythagorean relationship (c2 = a2 + b2) emerges.


To see more details of the proof, check out Johnson and Jackson’s Proof of Pythagorean Theorem on Maple Learn.
This new proof of the Pythagorean Theorem shows that discoveries in math are still happening and that young people can play a big role in these discoveries!


The most recent shift in education has seen countries adopting a more student-centered approach to learning. This approach involves enabling students to make sense of new knowledge by building on their existing knowledge. Many countries have embraced this approach in their educational systems. Teachers are no longer the sage on the stage, and gone are lectures and one-way learning. This new era of learning lends itself to the social constructivist framework of teaching and learning. 


Social Constructivism. Students adopt new knowledge through interacting with others to share past experiences and make sense of the learned concepts together. Perhaps the most well-known applications of social constructivist classrooms are Thinking Classrooms popularized by Peter Liljedahl in 2021 (the same age as Maple Learn!). In a Thinking Classroom, groups of students collaborate to discuss potential solutions to solve open-ended problems. Ideas are recorded on vertical surfaces so that all students, including those from different groups, have access to one another’s ideas. The teacher is hands-off in this type of classroom, with students asking each other questions if stuck or unsure. This approach facilitates the exchange of ideas and encourages collaboration among students. Sadly, this innovative idea was brought into the classroom at a peculiar time, at the height of the pandemic when less socialization was happening. 


Nevertheless, teachers were intrigued by this idea, and like any good idea, it spread like wildfire. For the first time, many teachers have reported that they observed their students engage in active thinking, rather than just mechanically plugging and chugging numbers into formulae, as was traditionally done in math education. This shift in approach has led to a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts and improved problem-solving skills among students. At the same time, students were more uncomfortable than ever before because they were not accustomed to the feeling of “not knowing.” The strongest students were often the most uncomfortable as they were conditioned to view mathematics as having only one correct answer. This discomfort is a natural part of the learning process, as it indicates that students are grappling with the new concepts and expanding their understanding. This new approach, which emphasized exploration and problem-solving over rote memorization, challenged their existing beliefs and required them to think in new ways. Over time, as they become more familiar with this approach, students develop greater confidence in their mathematical skills and improve their abilities to think critically and creatively.


Social Constructivism in Maple Learn. As a secondary math teacher, I’ve been using Maple Learn to support my students’ learning. I’ve mainly created projects and collections of financial literacy documents that are not only informative but also exploratory for students to engage with at their own pace. Here is where I see the potential of Maple Learn - not only to support teachers in the classroom but also to act in place of the teacher for asynchronous class work by being the guide on the side. 


The project-based ideas such as “Designing a roller coaster or slide,” “Exploring the rule of 72,” and open-ended questions such as “