student doing algebra student doing algebra New smartphone apps can help high school students with complex algebra problems. (Photo: lightpoet / Shutterstock)

New apps put a math tutor in your hands

Having trouble with algebra? These two apps show how to solve problems.

Next time your kid asks for help on his math homework, have no fear – there's now an app (or two) for that.

One of those apps, yHomework, allows you to punch in a math problem and then shows the step-by-step process of how to solve it. 

The app was developed by Ram Nathaniel, a 40-year-old Israeli mathematician with more than 20 years of experience coding and working in various algorithmic teams. He created the app with Gal Saar, a math teacher, in 2013. The app targets math problems encountered by students age 13 and up.

“The idea came to me while watching an old math instruction video about 20 years ago,” Nathaniel told From The Grapevine. “It used animations to change the equations. I remember thinking that a computer could do that automatically, and it would be fun to solve!” 

Nathaniel is currently working on another program to change the way high schoolers view math. “I think we were able to pinpoint the psychological elements that cause people to hate the subject that much," he said. "I intend to revolutionize the way people look at math.”

Many agree that the math apps are doing just that, in no small way because of how they supplement parental instruction.

“The real secret behind their growth is that many of the users are actually parents, working hard to help their kids with their homework,” Zack Miller, partner at OurCrowd, an online venture capital firm that follows the tech market closely, told From The Grapevine. “Math homework apps are transforming the way we teach math."

Parents, for one, are thrilled. "I'm convinced that every night there is a secret meeting of math teachers conjuring up new ways to torment the parents of their students," joked Tamar Smith, mother of a middle schooler, to From The Grapevine. “And if apps like these can help my son do his homework without my help, I’m all for it!”

Another math homework help app, PhotoMath, was released last month. PhotoMath works like yHomework, but the app can also do homework based on a photograph of any math problem from a textbook, eliminating the possibility for error from typos entering the problem into the app.

Experts say that apps like these could help students learn, but they could also enable students who want to take shortcuts.

“Apps like these give you the benefit that you can do your homework at your own pace, and look at the steps of each problem again,” Elie Cohen, a Maryland-based veteran SAT review instructor and former high school math teacher, told From The Grapevine. “I have students use online SAT tutors with success and I myself have benefited from online seminars." 

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