Let’s accept it. Mathematics isn’t one of the easiest subjects, and that’s the reason why students generally use graphing calculators to solve math problems. But wouldn’t it be even more convenient if you could use your smartphone for the same purpose?
Meet PhotoMath, an app that not only allows you to easily solve a math problem, but also lets you know how it arrived at the solution. In this article, we will discuss the basics of the app along with its features and limitations.
How PhotoMath works
PhotoMath uses your smartphone’s camera to solve math problems in real time. All you have to do is open the app and hold the phone over a math problem (make sure you position the problem within the red frame), and the app does the rest — snaps a picture of the problem, solves it, and displays the answer instantly on the same screen.
There’s also a Steps button which displays the detailed steps the app followed to reach the answer.
Features and limitations
As for its capabilities, PhotoMath, which uses optical character recognition (OCR) technology to read the equation, currently only works with printed equations, which means that you cannot use it to solve handwritten problems.
It supports basic arithmetics, fractions, decimal numbers, linear equations, and several functions like logarithms, although London-based MicroBlink, the company behind the app, says that new math is constantly being added to the app with every new release. The company also says that the initial version of the app has some bugs that will be fixed in an update which will be made available soon.
Launched last week, the app, which is currently only available for iOS and Windows Phone platforms, with an Android version arriving early next year, saw a whopping two million downloads in the first twenty-four hours. It also replaced Facebook’s stand-alone Message app to become the top free app in the App Store.
According to MicroBlink, Photomath is just proof of what the company is capable of, and the app’s success should attract customers to other products it offers, including the PDF417 Barcode Scanner app that allows users to scan 1D and 2D barcodes as well as QR codes and more. The company says it’s planning to use the technology used in PhotoMath to build apps for online banking in the future.
What do we think?
At first, the app may sound like a tool that would encourage kids to cheat, but isn’t it that cheaters will always find ways to cheat, or sidestep actual learning — whether or not an app like PhotoMath exists? On the other hand, looking at the positive side, the app could prove to be a great learning tool, especially for those who cannot afford a tutor, given its ability to list step-by-step details of how it arrived at the answer.
In addition, it could also trigger a major change in classroom assignments, pushing teachers to come up with innovative and interesting questions that can challenge PhotoMath’s capabilities – for example, questions based on real world problems, questions that require arguments, and more.