Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2018
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Socratic Math & Homework Help

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Instant answers plus explanations outweigh cheating concerns

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Skills
N/A
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
4–12
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Pros: Links to explanations and resources can really aid student understanding and provide valuable learning opportunities when the teacher isn't accessible.

Cons: There's no guarantee kids are going to use the app to learn; some will just want answers.

Bottom Line: Used wisely, this reference tool has the capacity to enhance learning and aid students on their own time and terms.

Socratic Math & Homework Help challenges teachers to move away from busywork and drill-and-kill homework, and toward assignments where students demonstrate their thinking. Let students check their work and discuss the process they used in small groups. Assign challenge questions to move students ahead, or use the app to provide remediation for students who need extra support. Review past material before beginning a new topic, or reinforce skills for students who have gaps. Or have kids look at the resources that questions generate and then use a tool like Flipgrid or Hippo Video to explain their thinking about how they arrived at the answer. 

Inevitably, some students will just use the app to get the answers, so teachers need to provide a variety of challenges to show mastery of a concept; teachers who stress process over product will appreciate this tool. And although the developer is no longer focusing on the website, it's worth a look. Ideas for how to use the app -- along with tons of explanations by teachers and other students -- can spark ideas for use and give students additional assistance and in-depth explanations that the app might miss.

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Using Socratic Math & Homework Help, students type in or snap a picture of a typed (not handwritten) question and instantly receive multiple varied resources containing explanations and answers. The app uses AI technology to scour the web for the closest matches that best answer the question or explain the concept. Answers appear in one or more pages containing videos from YouTube and Khan Academy, information from Wikipedia, images, and more.

When students search for questions in math, step-by-step directions (with hints) are often included. For problems that entail simple computation, however, explanations may be missing. For example, a search for the problem "8x4=" returned the answer 32 along with five more pages of information, but nothing that explained how to get the answer. Science, English language arts, and social studies aren't left out here; however, the answers may not be as precise as they are for math.

Students may find that not every answer in Socratic Math & Homework Help is useful or correct, and not every question is readable. Kids will need to learn when it's useful and should verify information using multiple resources and their own critical-thinking skills. For additional learning support, students can browse the website, where they can choose topics in science, math, or humanities and explore questions, answers, and examples submitted by other users. 

Used judiciously, Socratic Math & Homework Help promotes metacognition by encouraging students to think about how they can solve a problem or answer a question, rather than give up in frustration. The cards provided with each question form an automatic resource playlist of sorts, providing kids with opportunities to deepen understanding. Depending on the question, students may get answers in the form of text, images, video, audio, or all four. Whether they're reviewing class concepts, checking their work, or getting a head start on future topics, Socratic Math & Homework Help replaces the pocket calculator with a pocket tutor. 

Some will argue that apps like this promote cheating, and it's entirely possible that students will take advantage of the ability to find answers without putting in the work; however, motivated students can find other ways to cheat if they're so inclined. That fact shouldn't discourage educators from encouraging the use of tools like this to fill in gaps in understanding and to learn difficult concepts. You'll have to teach kids how to use the information they find to deepen understanding -- for many, this won't be an intuitive process. Also, since the questions may provide incorrect answers or results from unreliable sources, it's important to stress the application of reason and good judgment when using the tool.

Overall Rating

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

To the extent that students are motivated to learn, they'll like the tool for its novelty and ability to provide instant answers and resources.

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

Despite potential concerns about cheating, there's more benefit than risk; students who seek to understand concepts or fill in learning gaps will appreciate quick access to relevant resources.

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

Addresses various learning needs by providing resources in different formats, but not all resources contain sufficient accessibility features.


Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

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