Remember that episode of The Big Bang Theory when the guys were trying to create an app that solves differential equations? Well we might not be that far away from it actually existing. Back in October of 2014, microblink released PhotoMath on iTunes. This app not only solves the problem for you, but it shows you the steps required to arrive at the correct answer.
Simply point the adjustable red box at your math problem and boom, there’s your answer!
Click on “Steps >>” to see step by step instructions so you can show your work, so to speak.
I’ll be honest, as soon as I heard about this free app a few months ago, I downloaded it to my iPhone, but didn’t start playing around with it until recently. As someone who grew up in the dark ages of education, where our techiest math device was a TI-81 graphing calculator, I was blown away. This app solves these problems fast! Because it shows the steps required to arrive at the conclusion, the creator states it is a teaching device, and can even help mathematically challenged parents double-check their children’s work.
But it begs the question, is this tool, amazing as it is, the right thing to make available? Should students today still have to work equations with paper and pencil, or do these kinds of apps truly remove the need for that? It may just be a natural evolution forward for all of us. After all, the need for teaching cursive handwriting has all but been eliminated. Why shouldn’t the time solving for a variable be cut dramatically too. It’s solving ability is limited right now, and it will only recognize typeface equation, not handwritten ones. However, it will be interesting to look at this app’s capabilities a few years from now to see how far this technology can truly go.