Three Apps That Solve Math Problems Through a Picture

A few years ago when Photomath hit the App store there was all manner of debate about whether or not it was a good app for students. I fall into the side that argues that students are going to find apps like Photomath whether we tell them about it or not. Therefore, we need to think about the kind of math problems that are given as homework assignments. That is much like those of us in history classes who need to think about the kind of research assignments we give to students in the “Age of Google.” David Wees and Scott McLeod had some good commentary on this back in 2014.

Here are three apps that your students might have installed on their phones to help them solve math problems given to them for homework.

Photomath was the first app that I remember having the capability to let students snap a picture to get the answer to a math problem. It will not only show students the answer it also shows the the steps required to solve a math problem. When I recently tested the app against the other two in this list, it was the most responsive of the three. It also felt the most intuitive of the three. Photomath is available for Android and iOS.

Mathpix offers similar functionality to Photomath. Mathpix claims to be the first app to support handwriting recognition (although the other apps in this list do the same). It did a fine job recognizing my handwritten examples. The problem I had was that it defaulted to trying to graph every problem that I scanned even though the problem didn’t call for a graph. A quick tap of the “solver” tab in the app showed the correct answer. Mathpix is available for Android and iPhone.

Cymath is another free app that also lets students scan typed or handwritten math problems to see solutions and steps. Of the three apps on this list, this one had the largest field of view for the camera. It also has the cleanest user interface except for a banner ad that appears in the free version. Cymath is available for Android and iPhone.


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