WATCH: Photo Math, a smartphone camera calculator

To be fair, that x should be italicized. It’s a variable.

True. One thing that I’ve noticed is that, the lower the level of a math textbook, the lower the quality of formatting. I blame it on unfamiliarity with LaTeX.

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What are we going to do when we find out that the “back end” for this app is that it forwards the photo to a secondary school in India where the students solve the problem then reply with a picture of the solution?


I’m a math teacher (…waits for snarky comments…) and I’m trying to move my students into trying to ‘use’ math as opposed to compute exercise answers. Here’s a problem (a word reserved for a situation where the student must ask questions and formulate a math expression themselves, then calculate an answer) that I used with my class recently Dan Meyer has some good stuff here, and I’ve been trying to adapt other questions I come across to this “How do we work at finding an answer for this?” way of working. I like it and my students get more invested in it, but it takes time, so there’s a trade off. The Photo Math app would only help if you could express the problem using math symbols that it could parse (so no real help at all). Nobody encounters exercise questions outside math/science classes, so realtime computer solving of them might move classes towards doing more problem formulation and reduce the tedious hand calculation. That’s the upside I see here - getting students to understand what math does, instead of memorizing math techniques without a clue how to use them unless a question is already set out in a specific way.


Also, give (at least sometimes) the students more information than they need. When I had to keep a class busy when a chemistry teacher had to leave for a moment and tasked me with coming up with something for them to calculate, I gave them the molar weights of everything including the solvent. Many classmates attempted to shoehorn that one into the equations, on the virtue of always getting only the data they needed, and nothing more. (I didn’t expect that. I just gave them one more value for fun.)

Because in Real Life they will have all the data in the world and the problem will be more about selecting the needed ones from the unneeded.

Mechanical calculating is for machines. (Though it never hurts to be able to do it manually.) The problem decomposition is much more important skill.


No man, thanks for fighting the good fight.

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