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Hello! I'm a University of Waterloo math student (Combinatorics and Optimization major, biology minor), Maplesoft coop student, and cool dude B)

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These are Posts that have been published by mjsimmons

A salesperson wishes to visit every city on a map and return to a starting point. They want to find a route that will let them do this with the shortest travel distance possible. How can they efficiently find such a route given any random map?

Well, if you can answer this, the Clay Mathematics Institute will give you a million dollars. It’s not as easy of a task as it sounds.

The problem summarized above is called the Traveling Salesman Problem, one of a category of mathematical problems called NP-complete. No known efficient algorithm to solve NP-complete problems exists. Finding a polynomial-time algorithm, or proving that one could not possibly exist, is a famous unsolved mathematical problem.

Over years of research, many advances have been made in algorithms that can solve the problem, not in perfectly-efficiently time, but quickly enough for many smaller examples that you can hardly notice. One of the most significant Traveling Salesman Problem solutions is the Concorde TSP Solver. This program can find optimal routes for maps with thousands of cities.

Traveling Salesman Problems can also be used outside of the context of visiting cities on a map. They have been used to generate gene mappings, microchip layouts, and more.

The power of the legendary Concorde TSP Solver is available in Maple. The TravelingSalesman command in the GraphTheory package can find the optimal solution for a given graph. The procedure offers a choice of the recently added Concorde solver or the original pure-Maple solver.

To provide a full introduction to the Traveling Salesman Problem, we have created an exploratory document in Maple Learn! Try your hand at solving small Traveling Salesman examples and comparing different paths. Can you solve the problems as well as the algorithm can?


The concept of “Maple Learn art” debuted on the MaplePrimes blog in December 2021.  Since then, we’ve come a long way with new Maple Learn features and ever-growing creative minds.  Creating art using mathematical expressions and shapes is a great way to hone both your mathematical skills and your creativity, and is the perfect break from a bout of studying or the like.

I started my own Maple Learn art journey over one year ago.  Let’s see how one’s art can improve over time using new and advanced features!

Art with Shapes, March 2022

This pi-themed pie is simple and cute, but could use some additional features:

Adding Shaded() around Maple Learn shape commands colors them in!

Fun fact: I hand-picked all of the coordinates for that pi symbol.  It was an arduous but rewarding process.  Nowadays, I recommend a new method.  When you create a table in Maple Learn with two number columns, the values are plotted as points.  These points can be clicked and dragged across the plot window, and the table updates automatically to display the new coordinates.  How can you use this to make art?

  1. Create a table as described above.
  2. Move the points with your mouse to create an outline of the desired shape.
  3. Use the coordinates from your table in your geometry command.

Let’s apply these techniques in a newer piece: a full recreation of the spaghetti emoji!

Art with Shapes, August 2023

Would you look at that?!  Fully-shaded colors, a background, and lines of spaghetti noodles that weren’t painstakingly guesstimated combine to create a wonderfully improved piece of art.

Art with Animation, March 2022

Visit the document to see its animation.  Animation is an invaluable feature in Maple Learn, frequently utilized to observe how changing variables affect functions or model a concept.  We’ve harnessed its power for animated artwork!  This animation is cute, using parametric functions and more to change the image as the animation variable changes.  Like the previous piece, it’s missing a background, and the leaves overlap the stem awkwardly in some places.

Art with Animation, August 2023


This piece has a simple background made with a large black square, but it enhances the overall effect.

The animation here comes from piecewise functions, which display different values based on a given criterion.  In this case, the criterion is the current value of the animation variable.

There are 32 individual polygons in this image (including 8 really tiny ones along the edges!) and 8 rainbow colors.  Each color is associated with a different piecewise function, and displays four random squares in that color in each frame of the animation.

This image isn’t that much more advanced than the animated flower, but I think the execution has vastly improved.

Whether you’ve been following these blog posts since December 2021 or are new to Maple Learn, we hope you give Maple Learn art a try.

And don’t forget that Maple is also a goldmine of artistic potential.  Maple’s bountiful collection of packages such as Fractals, ColorTools, plottools and more are great places to start for math that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is informative.

This week, our staff participated in a series of art challenges using either Maple Learn or Maple itself, each featuring a suggested theme and suggested mathematical content.  Check out the challenges and some of our employees’ entries below, and try out a challenge for yourself!


Tuesday’s Art Theme: Pasta

Mathematical Content: Shapes

Example: Lazar Paroski’s spiraling take on spaghetti


Wednesday’s Art Theme: Nature

Mathematical Content: Fractals

Example: John May’s Penrose tiling landscape (in Maple!)


Thursday’s Art Theme: Disco

Mathematical Content: Animation

Example: Paulina Chin’s disco ball (in Maple!)


Friday’s Art Theme: Space

Mathematical Content: Color

Example: that’s today!  Who knows what our staff will create…?


We hope these prompts have inspired you! If you create some art you’re really proud of, consider submitting it to be featured in the 2023 Maple Conference’s Creative Works Showcase.

Who else likes art?  I love art; doodling in my notebook between projects and classes is a great way to pass the time and keep my creativity sharp.  However, when I’m working in Maple Learn, I don’t need to get out my book; I can use the plot window as my canvas and get my drawing fix right then and there.

We’ve done a few blog posts on Maple Learn art, and we’re back at it again in even bigger and better ways.  Maple Learn’s recent update added some useful features that can be incorporated into art, including the ability to resize the plot window and animate using automatically-changing variables.

Even with all the previous posts, you may be thinking, “What’s all this?  How am I supposed to make art in a piece of math software?”  Well, there is a lot of beauty to mathematics.  Consider beautiful patterns and fractals, equations that produce surprisingly aesthetically interesting outputs, and the general use of mathematics to create technical art.  In Maple Learn, you don’t have to get that advanced (heck, unless you want to).  Art can be created by combining basic shapes and functions into any image you can imagine.  All of the images below were created in Maple Learn!

There are many ways you can harness artistic power in Maple Learn.  Here are the resources I recommend to get you started.

  1. I’ve recently made some YouTube videos (see the first one below) that provide a tutorial for Maple Learn art.  This series is less than 30 minutes in total, and covers - in three respective parts - the basics, some more advanced Learn techniques, and a full walkthrough of how I make my own art.
  2. Check out the Maple Learn document gallery art collection for some inspiration, the how-to documents for additional help, and the rest of the gallery to see even more Maple Learn in action!

Once you’re having fun and making art, consider submitting your art to the Maple Conference 2022 Maple Learn Art Showcase.  The due date for submission is October 14, 2022.  The Conference itself is on November 2-3, and is a free virtual event filled with presentations, discussions, and more.  Check it out!


If you do as much math as I do, you’ll likely agree that it’s important to take breaks from intensive work.  However, sometimes one wants to keep one’s mind stimulated with math.  This makes mathematical puzzles and games a perfect respite.  Alternatively, even if you don’t do as much math professionally, math puzzles are a fun and easily-accessible way to keep your mind sharp.  Games like sudoku and Rubik’s cubes are incredibly popular for good reason.

My personal favourite math puzzle is the nonogram, sometimes called hanjie, picross, or picture cross.  The game presents players with a blank grid of squares and clues indicating which ones should be colored in.  When the puzzle is solved, the colored squares depict a simple image.  You can read more thorough instructions here.


Nonograms are now available in Maple Learn!  These documents are coded using Maple scripts which can be viewed online in Maple Learn.  The document collection has pre-made puzzles and randomly-generated puzzles, and now you can create your own!  Use this document to create an image, and follow the instructions therein to generate the interactive puzzle.  Once you’ve created your own Maple Learn nonogram, use the sharelink to send it to friends!  Also keep your eye on the entire Maple Learn games collection for more in the future!

Probability is a field of mathematics that sees extensive use outside of academics.  Whether one’s checking the likelihood of rain on a weather app or the odds of winning the lottery, probability is everywhere.  My favorite application of probability is dice games like Dungeons and Dragons.  The game can be played very simply (choose to attack a monster, roll a 20-sided-die, try to exceed a certain number) or with a complexity that rivals high school math courses.  There are spells and abilities that modify one’s dice rolls, such as adding additional rolls to the total or rerolling the die and using the higher result.  A good player regularly asks themself when to activate certain buffs and how likely they are to succeed with or without them.

All of these questions boil down to the basics of probability.  Things that one learns in an introductory statistics course extend into countless applications.  Currently, I’m adding some of that knowledge to the Maple Learn document gallery, and I’m here to give a sneak peek.

First, I’ve built tree diagrams in Maple Learn.  Tree diagrams are a way to map probability across multiple events occurring in sequence.  Each branching path represents a series of events that have a specified probability of occurring.

Here’s an example: one morning I flip a coin to decide if I buy a lottery ticket.  If it’s heads, I do.  If I buy the ticket, I have a one in a million chance of winning the cash prize.  Drawn as a tree diagram…

I drew this using Maple Learn line, point, and label operations.

My new D&D-themed documents are a bit more exciting.  In the first, we explore a tree diagram with variable probabilities.  A brave hero makes their way into a dungeon, attacking any random monster they see.  How likely are they to land an attack?  Adjust the details of the question and watch the diagram change.

In the second, I used Maple program scripting to add a live randomized dice roller.  Many probability techniques are at play to analyze which of two buffs will do more good for a dice-rolling adventurer.

I plan on making more documents like these; keep your eyes on the Document Gallery probability collection for updates.

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