Click of a Camera

November 14, 2014

New camera calculator app solves math problems

Meghan Pottle | Staff Writer

Screen Shot 2014-11-10 at 11.06.30 AMPhoto by Photo Editor Madison Krell

PhotoMath, a free camera calculator application, might be the solution to students’ problems–mathematically, at least.

After being launched on October 20, PhotoMath quickly made its way to the top of the App Store. Designed as an educational tool, the app has the ability to solve arithmetic expressions, fractions and decimals, powers and roots, and simple linear equations by simply scanning a math equation with a smartphone camera.

Junior Henry Hemmelgarn found out about PhotoMath mainly because at the time, it was #1 in the App Store and other students had been using it.

“A lot of people say that it’s cheating, but really it is scanning the problem,” Hemmelgarn said. “It gives you the steps that it took to get to the answer which is really helpful because if you don’t understand how to solve a problem, it can give you the steps to do it.”

Algebra II teacher Kristi Stephens said she agrees. According to Stephens, students could use PhotoMath for educational purposes.

“For those kids who struggle with retaining the information, (they) could use this app,” Stephens said. “If they are stuck on a problem, they could use it to help them figure out how to get started or how to do the problem.”

Despite the benefits, PhotoMath also has its limitations. For example, the app can only read printed text, not handwritten equations.  And the red frame that surrounds a certain equation may not be able to capture the equation if it is too long or too close to another equation in a textbook.

Although Stephens said she sees PhotoMath as a helpful study supplement, she says it could be used for cheating as well.

“If you’re relying on it to help you get through your homework, in the end it’s not going to help you learn the material,” Stephens said. “I would encourage the kids to use it as a study tool and still remind them to practice it by themselves.”

Sophomore Scott Vennemeyer said there is the possibility that kids could use PhotoMath to cheat.

“I think that is another reason why people shouldn’t let us use our phones as calculators on tests,” Vennemeyer said. “I understand that could be a good thing to do, but there is a possibility that (cheating) could happen.”

According to Hemmelgarn, he uses PhotoMath every once in a while to help prepare him for tests and understand how to solve problems.

“I use it because sometimes when you are at home, you don’t really have somebody there to ask questions, like a teacher or a parent,” Hemmelgarn said. “It is very helpful to use with your homework.”