Finding numerical analysis software

Do you know where can I find free or low cost engineering software to use and demonstrate in my local community college classes (mechanical engineering)? Numerical analysis (finite element or finite difference) software would be especially useful to demonstrate.
You probably have it already on your computer: Microsoft Excel! Excel is extremely powerful and you can probably show anything you could ever want in it. I stumbled into computers by working on environmental research projects. We needed a way to do heavy statistics in the field. A little bit of thought let me do all sorts of calculations such as skewness and kurtosis analysis inside Lotus 123. That was back in the old DOS days and Excel is many orders of magnitude more powerful. I have seen some amazing number crunching programs written in Excel with far less effort than ever imagined.
This was first published in April 2001

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