5.6 3d plot help (5.10.00)

5.6.1 Jason C. Leach

Can anyone give me a few tips on plotting in 3d? I’m doing a class on Calc with 3 variables and would like to use maple to better visualize some of the problems.

For example, if I have 3 points (3,0.0), (0,2,0), and (0,0,4) that make up a triangle, I’d like to plot the 3 vectors between them. Then, I might do something like find the distance from a 4th point to that triangle; or perhaps from a point to a line.

Perhaps I should be asking, if I have several vectors, how can I plot them in 3d.

While I’m at it, can maple deal with error values that one typically finds in physics. For example I’d like to add: 3.0 (plus or minus) 1.0, and 4.1 (plus or minus) 2.1.

I think I’m just going to have to pick up a maple book.

5.6.2 Mike May (9.10.00)

Let me give a number of fundamentally different paths depending on how you want to use Maple for teaching and how much Maple you already know.

The best package of Maple macros for teaching Multi-variable calculus that I know o is the mvcal2 package by Cheung, et. al. It can be obtained from


Among other commands, the package has a drawvector3d command. I would recommend the package route if you are planning to use Maple almost entirely for demonstrations. (Maple is then something that the students do not learn.) You should also be fairly good with Maple yourself. You may also want to use the package approach if your program assumes that the students will learn how to do serious programming with Maple.

A second route is to use worksheets both for demonstrations and for student activities. I have been using Maple that way for multi-variable calculus for a number of years now. My worksheets are available via anonymous ftp from euler.slu.edu. I have about 30 worksheets for multi-variable calculus, organized according to the McCallum book. You sound like you would be interested in the preliminary worksheets that deal with introducing the students to Maple and to plotting.

Chapter 15 has worksheets on plotting in alternate coordinate systems and chapter 12 has worksheets on drawing vectors. The worksheets can also be found at


I like the worksheet model because it allows me to use Maple for fairly complicated graphics without teaching the students a lot of programming. I have also found it to be a good way to make material accessible to other faculty here.

Finally, since you mentioned picking up a Maple book, I can’t resist giving a plug for the one I co-authored. Getting Started With Maple by Cheung, Keough, and May is sold by Wiley press. It is aimed at an introductory level.