App of the Week: PhotoMath

Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can’t remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to “show your work.” A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that.

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You can flag incorrect answers, and updates build upon the errata to produce a more robust tool.

The app has its limitations. It can only scan printed text, so it won’t work on a teacher’s handwritten equations. And, given the push towards more constructivist assignments and the intuitive mathematical understanding embodied by the Common Core, I don’t see it as a tool for cheating beyond the solutions which math textbooks have been including for decades. Y

Have a suggestion for a featured App of the Week? Let us know. And don’t forget to check out more great apps in our archive.

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