Are Apps Making Math Skills Obsolete?

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The solution to pretty much any math problem can be found online or with a smartphone app. We all know that today’s kids are more tech-savvy than ever and are probably using any means necessary to complete their homework as quickly as possible.

If your child is doing well on their math homework, but seeing their grades drop during a math test, the problem may not be “test anxiety” but rather an unhealthy reliance on apps.

The truth is that your child’s ability to find the answers to complete their math homework does not necessarily indicate that your child understands how to solve the math problem. In fact, the more your child depends on apps, the more they may struggle to progress into higher math such as algebra and calculus. And, it seems that nowadays everyone has a smartphone, causing cheating to progress way beyond writing equations on your arm before an exam.

Photo credit: ID 43041656 © Christos Georghiou |

Trust me — with four years of experience teaching high school math and science and a brief teaching position at the University of Saskatchewan, I’ve seen it all. While smartphone apps are cool and can be quite helpful, these apps have more power than any fancy Texas Instruments calculator that I remember from my school days.

Here are just a few apps that can be very helpful, but that can also hinder the development of your child’s problem-solving skills and “number sense.”

Desmos is a graphic calculator app. It has many great features and is currently the only app that Mathnasium students are allowed to use.

Photomath is an app that lets the user take a picture of a math problem and automatically solves it. It can be extremely helpful; it shows the step-by-step process for solving the question. Students can use this app to “ace” math tests by simply writing down the information that Photomath provides and missing the learning opportunity.

Symbolab is a math solving app that solves complicated calculus (and other higher math) problems. It’s similar to Photomath in that it shows step-by-step solutions.

While specific math skills may not be necessary as you child graduates and continues down their career path, problem-solving skills are necessary to succeed in life. This is at the heart of math. Math is less about a child’s computation skills (1+1=2) and more about developing their cognitive abilities.

Photo credit: ID 17902596 © Violka08 |

Plus, standardized tests for entrance into college, university or graduate school often do not allow calculators. This makes your child’s math skills and problem-solving abilities vitally important. For example, calculators are not allowed in the quantitative section of the GMAT for entry into a graduate business school program. For college admissions in the US, the SAT only allows specific scientific calculators. Placement tests for Canadian universities, colleges and trade schools also often have restrictions on what calculators may be used or may even forbid calculators altogether.

How can Mathnasium of Saskatoon help your child? In 2002, Larry Martinek co-founded Mathnasium in Los Angeles and developed the Mathnasium Method™. While Mathnasium incorporates five modes of learning (mental, verbal, visual, tactile and written), our emphasis is placed on developing a relationship with our students.

When students have both confidence to tackle math problems and the competency to solve them correctly, they can avoid dependence on smartphone apps and online calculators. By maintaining a healthy balance between technology and learning, Mathnasium can help set up your child for future success.

Mathnasium of Saskatoon

10-705 Central Avenue




Photos by Lisa Landrie, A Photogenic Life.