Controversial math apps won’t help kids cheat

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The girl at work. Photo: Rob LeFebvre, Cult of Mac
My daughter wishes these math apps worked better. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

My math-averse daughter wanted to cheat on her algebra homework. So we downloaded PhotoMath, a free app that lets you take a picture of your mathematical and algebraic equations, solving them for you and showing the steps to the solution.

PhotoMath has been at the top of the App Store charts for a couple of weeks, hitting number one on the Education, Kids Games and Top Apps lists. Small wonder, as it seems like a great way to get out of doing homework.

However, despite the concerns of some parents and teachers, apps like PhotoMath just won’t help when it comes to cheating — they’re far too limited. Still, it’s a promising technology that, once it matures, might actually turn into the type of wonder tool for education we’ve long been promised, turning our iOS devices into useful educational tools that will help kids actually learn math, rather than simply giving them a shortcut to homework answers.

This magic math app is like having Stephen Hawking on your iPhone

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Photo: PhotoMath
Photo: PhotoMath

Here’s a confession: I was terrible at math in school. From Algebra 1 on, I just couldn’t keep the various symbols, numbers, and denominators I was faced with straight, and so I flunked pretty much every test.

But I grew up in the 90’s. If I was in high school today, I’d never fail a math test again. I’d use the new iOS app PhotoMath instead, which literally solves math problems like magic.