There are hundreds of applications that help children and adults improve their skills in mathematics. You can find out about some of the recommended ones on Edutopia, a website that promotes improvements in learning. And if you want to locate more specialized apps then the search engine AppCrawlr can help. However, what all these apps have in common is that they were developed for educational or pedagogical purposes and hence they are ancillary to what a teacher or tutor teaches us in class or to what you learn on your own.
But what if there was an application that could do mathematic operations itself just by positioning the smartphone camera over a written formula or equation and then getting the result? It looks like magic, but yes, this app is here, for better or for worse, depending on who you ask. It’s called PhotoMath and is a major talking point this autumn.
Mathematical Applications for Engineers
As you can guess by the by name, PhotoMath performs mathematical operations by taking a photograph of the equation or mathematical formula written on paper. Some call it a camera calculator. With PhotoMath you can do addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and fractions, but also equations and other complex algebraic operations.
PhotoMath is now available for iOS and Windows Phone. The Android version will be ready in early 2015, according to microblink, the developer of the service that specializes in vision technology for mobile devices . PhotoMath is free, making it more attractive and easier to acquire, mainly for students.
Image | MyScript
Image | PhotoMath
But PhotoMath is not the only app that helps to solve formulas and mathematical equations directed at students in engineering and related degrees. Also free is MyScript Calculator which has offered a similar approach since a couple of years ago, although you have to write the formula in your smartphone or tablet (with your finger or stylus) for the program to recognize what has been written and then to generate the result.
Another aspect of engineering that mobile devices are ready to revolutionize are the paper forms of laws, principles and mathematics which students depend upon to solve practical problems. Mechanical Engineer or Engineering Basics are examples that have the best repository of formulas: the smartphone allows us to have them all, with unlimited space and categorized in the palm of our hands.
The problem with these options is that mobiles are not normally allowed in exams. Will the way we do exams change one day so that smartphones replace calculators once and for all?
Math apps for children
Image | Practical Money Skills
There is no need to go up to the level of engineering to see that mobile devices are changing the way we learn and use mathematics. Children are another group targeted by the developers of such apps.
Being a practical subject, maths lends itself to games (literally). Einstein Math Academy or [Mathmateer](https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mathmateer / id393989284? mt = 8) are recognized examples of how multiplication and division can be taught through educational games. Not only arithmetic but also household finances (which are not normally dealt with at school) can also be taught from childhood through a game. Visa proposed it with Peter Pig’s Money Counter.
Learning vs. Technology
With the emergence of these applications, controversy between the education and technological sectors and parents is assured. The beneficiaries appear to be the students, but is common to question whether this limits their degree of learning.
Many questions arise in this environment. One of them is: does technology help to develop our scientific skills at the same time as saving us time, or does it merely limit them, hindering our prospects for personal and professional growth?
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