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Homework Help: Abacus or mechanical solutions to matrix operations

  1. Apr 30, 2010 #1
    I'd like to find a mechanical solution to matrix operations and computations. Currently, my emphasis is on a useable tool/method for Gauss-Jordan Elimination and the Simplex Method in Linear Programming due to the sheer amount of time that calculating and writing everything by hand takes. I realize that these are normally performed by computers, but that's not an approach that will work when a computer is not present (like on an exam) and I'm finding that my homework consists of far more mechanical redundancy. Additionally, I think that I could do more conceptually if I could spend more time focusing on concepts and modeling problems rather than simple (yet intensely repetitive and error-prone) operations.

    I'm currently taking a course called Finite Mathematics via correspondence, and I intend on going back to school for more advanced math classes this fall (intending on doing Comp Sci, possibly a double major with Mathematics). It often takes me about 6-12 hours of work to complete the questions for a unit (which might consist of something like "The Dual Problem: Minimization with Problem Constraints of the Form >=") of which there are 41 units. I generally do odd numbered questions, skipping problems where I feel the concept is something I'm very familiar with. This is on top of the time it takes to read through and work through the unit. This has been very difficult to manage time-wise, and I'd like to make faster progress than I am. I've been teaching myself some more advanced topics in Linear Algebra to compliment the course, as well as reviewing the occasional topic from Calculus, Physics, or whatever else is fuzzy (it's been about 4 years).

    I've searched the internet, but I can't seem to find anything that would fit. An "abacus" or other mechanical tool for working with matrices would be amazingly helpful. Anyone with advice or a solution?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 30, 2010 #2
    I doubt you can use an abacus during an exam.

    You can try doing the calculations by hand, and checking via an online matrix calculator if your work is correct.
  4. Apr 30, 2010 #3
    The difficulty isn't with checking my work. There's a good reference in the back of my textbook for answers. The problem is that it takes me a very long time to actually do the work. Writing out several iterations of a 4x10 matrix for an operation with the simplex method, for example, takes a long time to do.
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