Back at the age of 17, thanks to the liberal access policies of Indiana University’s Wrubel Computing Center, I was able to write short little computer programs (on cards!) that would graph 3 dimensional surfaces using a pen plotter. The little nerd that was me was thrilled at the results, and my bedroom wall was plastered with graphs of various mathematical functions of my creation. And incidentally it was an extremely helpful way to get a visual understanding of mathematical geometries, including alternative coordinates systems – cartesian, spherical, and cylindrical.
In these days, there is no shortage of packages that will draw 3-D mathematical surfaces. However, nothing that I found was totally simple. All required a learning curve, or a download or a plugin. I wanted to build something whereby you would simply type in a formula, hit enter, and see the surface. Hence was born Formula Toy. It uses the amazing three.js library which is a wrapper around WebGL. The dependence on WebGL means that it won’t run on every single browser because WebGL is still an emerging standard. However it should work on most MACs and on most Window’s desktops, at least if you use a modern browser like Chrome.
You can either go directly to http://formulatoy.net or you can look at some examples and just click on ones there that intrigue you which will pop you straight into formula toy. There is some help text here.