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About Purplemath

Elizabeth Stapel: The primary developer of Purplemath and the author of its lessons is Elizabeth Stapel. Though she now has a master's degree in mathematics, she never would have believed while growing up that she would one day be a math teacher. In grammar school, her two worst subjects were math and phys-ed ("physical education"). For her high-school years, her parents sent her to a religious school where the prevailing philosophy seemed to be that women needed to be married, not educated. (Yes, those kinds of places still exist.) Upon graduation, her parents put her to work at their church and then at their religious business. After five years of barely paying her, her parents finally had no further use for her and allowed her to try college, so she enrolled at the local state school. One of her first classes covered early-high-school algebra.

Ms. Stapel quickly discovered that, though she often found math to be difficult, she had a taste for the subject. She started helping fellow students through the university's tutoring service, later becoming a grader for the math department. While grading homework for many professors' classes, she observed common problems that students have and common mistakes that they make. When she tutored, she again encountered these areas of difficulty, and was able to learn which techniques generally helped the students to succeed. These techniques were often those that Ms. Stapel had used to conquer her own confusion when earlier taking these same classes herself.

As a graduate student, Ms. Stapel worked in various tutoring and teaching capacities, and learned to incorporate her success techniques into her instruction. These are the same tips and techniques that she weaves through her in-class instruction and the Purplemath lessons.

Her basic philosophy regarding algebra is "If I can do this stuff, then so can you!"

History of Purplemath: Purplemath began in 1998 as a personal web site created by Elizabeth Stapel. Ms. Stapel's initial site included course-specific materials for her math students. Later, she started adding a few lessons. As she created more lessons, traffic at her personal site increased.

Eventually, she decided to do a complete site redesign to create a more professional appearance and to highlight the list of lessons. In order to pick a color theme, she asked her son, then about two and a half years old, which color he liked best. Naturally, he picked purple.

Traffic continued to increase, and in 1999 the site had to be moved from its free hosting to its own domain name. The name "Purplemath" was chosen and registered. A few years later, "Purplemaths" (with an "s" at the end) was added for the benefit of British-English speakers.

According to Quantcast, Purplemath served about six million pageviews to nearly two million unique visitors in September of 2012. During the North-American school year, Purplemath uses as much as 600 gigabytes of bandwidth in a month, serving as many as three hundred fifty thousand pageviews in one day to more than one hundred forty thousand unique visitors. (Fewer pages are served during the North-American summer break.) The average visitor comes to Purplemath directly from a search engine and reads three topic-specific content pages.

Recognition: Thousands of sites are now linked to Purplemath, and thousands of visitors come to the site each day. Purplemath has been listed as an online resource in such books as Cliffs Quick Review: Algebra II. In addition, the following awards and notations have been made:

  • Chosen as one of's top three "Best Educational Websites for Algebra", February 2012
  • Awarded third place in She Knows national poll, October 2010
  • Referenced in The New York Times, August 2010
  • Added to Schoolzone's webguide of recommended sites, January 2009
  • Included in's "Top 100" Web sites list, January 2008
  • Featured "Web Byte" in the NCTM news bulletin, September 2006
  • Included in the listing of "Net Goodies" in the NADE "Math SPIN News" journal, January 2006
  • Included in T.H.E. Journal's listing of General Math Resources, July 2005
  • Listed as a TechLearning "Site of the Day", February 2005
  • Featured in the Webwatch column in "The Telegraph" newspaper of Calcutta, India, 16 February 2005
  • Added to EEVL's Mathematics listings, February 2005
  • Added to's "Top 100" Web Sites list, September 2004
  • Rated by Education World as an "A+" site, October 2003
  • Added to the Internet Scout Report's archive of educational resources, June 2003
  • Included in the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse's Digital Dozen, April 2003
  • Added to Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators, April 2003
  • Listed as a Links2Learning "Premier Page", April 2002.
  • Selected as an Education Planet "Top Math Site", February 2002.
  • Listed as a PBS "Recommended Site", January 2002.
  • Mentioned in Wall Street Journal article, November 2001.
  • Chosen as a Learning in Motion "Top Ten Selection", October 2001.
  • Listed as an Internet Web Guide Magazine "Molecule of the Month" site, May 2001.
  • Placed on the "Top20" list for algebra, September 2000.
  • Listed as the Math Goodies newsletter "Site of the Month", August 2000.
  • Received the "Web Site Excellence Award" from The School Page, March 2000.

Purplemath is frequently referenced by, GoogleAnswers, and Wikipedia; and many have written to thank Purplemath for the help it provides.

Software used in development: Many have inquired about the software used to create the various graphics on Purplemath. Graphs usually begin their life in the Equation Grapher program, produced by Markus Friberg. Screen-captures are taken from graphing calculators using the Texas Instruments' TI Connect software. Other graphics are created, and graphs are "tweaked", inside Paint Shop Pro, now owned by the Corel Corporation. The animations are also created in Paint Shop Pro, through the Animation Shop plug-in. Mathematical typesetting is done with MathType, produced by Design Science (for images); and KaTeΧ, an online formatting tool produced by Khan Academy.

Page formatting is done within Adobe's Dreamweaver. The domain names (,,, etc) are registered through The site's hosting is through Liquid Web. Security (which protects you from, for instance, drive-by computer infections) is provided by Sucuri.

Contact: Ms. Stapel may be contacted through the contact form or through regular mail at "Elizabeth Stapel, POB 493, Addison IL 60101-3729, USA".

Privacy Policy Page

Purplemath has no affiliation with one "Joshua Schneider" (AKA "Josh Metnick"), "AIS, Inc" (AKA ""), "John F Stapel" (AKA "Dr Stapel"), or their various confederates. Their representations (claims of ownership interest in, authorship of, affiliation with, or employment at Purplemath; offers to sell Purplemath; etc) will not be honored. Apologies for any confusion.

Advisory: On 19 January 2017, an unknown agent registered the domain name "" (note the extraneous second "T" in "math"), apparently for the purpose of phishing by pretending to be Elizabeth Stapel. If you have received correspondence from "", kindly please forward all messages to Purplemath, at <>, including header information, if possible. Thank you.



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