Linear Algebra

Portrait and Landscape Views of ALAMA Calculator

Welcome.  About “ALAMA”:  This is an acronym for “Applied Linear Algebra and Matrix Analysis”, a textbook that I wrote in 2007 and revised in 2018.  Although this page is primarily intended for ALAMA Calculator files, I want to preface it with a disclaimer and a few comments on my experiences in teaching linear algebra. 

The disclaimer:  ALAMA Caculator is not a prerequisite for using my textbook.  I wrote it initially as an interesting project and a handy tool that I used to explore various aspects of matrix calculations while writing my revised textbook.

About my experiences teaching linear algebra:  When I arrived at the University of Nebraska in 1969 as a fresh PhD, among my very first teaching assignments was a linear algebra course.  From the perspective of an abstract algebraist (my thesis was “Groups with Category”), my first instincts were to treat the course an introduction to higher level algebra and as a bridge course to higher level rigorous math courses.  Consequently, algebra concepts and proof understanding were primary emphases of the course.  Because computing facilities of any kind were not readily available, exercises that I assigned tended to be somewhat theoretical (like testing concept understanding, simple proofs) or what was commonly referred to as “toy exercises”, such as elementary matrix arithmetic or finding eigenvalues of a very small matrix.  As humble calculators evolved into  programmable calculators with computing power and became more commonly available (TI SR-52, HP-29C), I grew fascinated by computer programming concepts and my interests gradually shifted towards applied mathematics, mathematical modeling and numerical analysis.  Likewise, the topics I emphasized in a linear algebra course evolved.   In the late 70’s and 1980’s I explored the use of these calculators as adjunct tools for matrix calculations and very elementary project assignments.  As a co-founder and administrator of a NextStep lab in 1991, and in later years as director of a more general networked math departmental computer lab,  I was able to introduce and refine the notions of group projects and the applications of software tools (Mathematica, Maple, Matlab, Octave, etc) into my teaching of linear algebra. 

The point I want to make is this:  I wrote ALAMA in such a way that it is possible to use it to teach linear algebra from any one of these perspectives by a suitable choice of topics and problem assignments.  Computing  assignments or projects are not prerequisites.  The theoretician in me required that my text be mathematically rigorous  and complete — there is even a full proof of the Jordan Canonical Form theorem in some optional material of the revised text.  But rigor was not to be at the expense of important applications and mathematical experimentation which other of my interests mandated.  Nor was it to be at the expense of readability that motivates students to actually study, enjoy and learn from the assigned textbook!

For more on my views on the subject of linear algebra or ALAMA, and for additional textbook resources for students and instructors, consult the URL

If you have questions or comments about my text, send them to my UNL email address: Questions or comments about ALAMA calculator should be sent to me via the Contact Me menu item at this site.

About ALAMA Calculator:  This calculator is an easy-to-use button calculator that I programmed off and on for the past few years.  It was originally for my amusement, but I was struck by how useful this simple button calculator could be as a tool in a linear algebra course.  So I wrote it with an eye to it being a helpful optional companion for the ALAMA textbook, both first and revised editions.  However, it can be used by any student (or teacher or aficionado) of linear algebra for their own purposes.  It has enough capabilities that I could even carry out a few of my textbook projects with it and I used it to create some of the graphs that appear in the revised ALAMA, along with pretty much all the routine matrix calculations in ALAMA — nice tool if you want to check answers.   Included in the downloads is the folder ALAMAprograms contains scripts for nearly all the examples from ALAMA that require technology tools, as well as a few programs that I wrote (yes, it’s a fully programmable calculator, but it takes a bit of careful thinking to do it).  I wrote a nice (in my opinion!) User Guide as part of the calculator, so if you’re interested in using more of the capabilities of ALAMA calculator, consult the guide.

If you would like to use this calculator, consult the links listed at the bottom of this page for a version suitable to your operating system.  These versions are free for your enjoyment.  You might also want to examine some of the interesting applications on the “Math Fun” page of this site.

I wrote this calculator in C++, so that I could use the excellent packages FLTK and Eigen. It is available on machines with operating systems macOS 10.14.1, Windows 10 and a few flavors of Linux. It will also work on some earlier versions of these operating systems, but no promises there!  Longer term, I may port it to Windows UWP or Apple iOS, but these are much more extensive projects that will involve complete rewrites.  I have no idea how suitable the APIs of UWP are for the calculator and good old Apple, Objective C wasn’t different enough from C++, so now we have Swift, which is a problem since FLTK and Eigen are written in C++.

Downloads:  Below are links to pages containing instructions and downloadable copies of ALAMA Calculator along with a folder of programs for the calculator.  All of the files are in compressed format, so need to be unzipped.