Review by Debbie Gorrell, Common Sense Education | Updated November 2014
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PhotoMath

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One-trick pony displays equation solutions with unique digital tool

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Math
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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4 images

Pros: Offers a unique, tech-savvy approach to showing solutions to math equations.

Cons: Kids will be tempted to use the app for quick and easy answers to problems, with no opportunity for in-depth learning.

Bottom Line: If used appropriately, this could be a fun tool for showing kids how to solve equations.

If you're looking for an interesting twist on teaching kids about equations, use PhotoMath as a whole-class instructional tool. Keeping in mind that equations have to be printed and not hand-written, create several equations that align to your lesson, and have kids solve them using paper and pencil. Then, using a copy of the unsolved equations, scan them with the app, one at a time. Review each step of the solution with the class, making sure kids understand why each step was completed. 

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PhotoMath is essentially a camera with a built-in program for solving equations. To start, kids point the device at an equation and wait a few seconds for the equation to scan. Then, the solution appears on the screen. Kids can tap a button to see the steps that were used to solve the equation. Other tappable icons on the main screen include an information icon, a brightness icon, and an icon that lists all recently scanned equations and their solutions. 

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It's pretty neat to see PhotoMath in action, but kids may not learn much from the experience. Each step of a solution can be displayed, but explanations aren't provided, which limits how much kids may understand. Ideally, kids will use the app if they occasionally struggle with an equation and want to see the individual steps for solving it. Kids can also use it to check their work, although traditional methods, like substitution, are much more valuable when it comes to learning. The greatest concern about this tool is that it raises the possibility of academic cheating, and may send kids a message to take the easy route when it comes to learning. 

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids will be engaged as they take photos of equations and see the solutions appear on the screen, but the novelty wears off quickly. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Could be an innovative way for kids to see steps for solving equations. It's possible kids will use it to find answers to homework or test problems, however, and steps aren't explained, they're simply listed. 

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A tutorial shows kids how to use the app. Simple, clean design makes navigation a snap. Voiced instructions could appeal to more diverse learners. 


Teacher Reviews

(See all 2 reviews) (2 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Jeff D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Millard Elementary School
Fremont, CA
A modern tool that can help students fill the gaps

This is a tool much like a calculator is. If used properly it can be powerful. I equate having access to this to being similar to having the answers provided in the back of the book. The difference is that the steps are provided which allows the students to practice the correct process when solving a mathematical equation as opposed to reinforcing poor habits by practicing incorrect steps because a student did not truly get the concept in class. I like this as a helpful tool when a student is working on homework.

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