New maths app does the homework (and explains answers)

23/01/2017

A new app, Socratic has gone live, offering to solve student’s homework by from a simple camera snap.

The app lets users take a picture of a problem (or they can type it in), and it will give you an answer, along with the steps necessary to arrive at that answer — and even detailed explanations of the steps and concepts if you need them.

The Socratic app, where students can snap a photo of a homework question and learn how to answer it, launched in July in the App Store. Now, with a brand new math experience, Socratic is changing the way students learn one of their hardest and most popular subjects, on their phone and for free.

"Again and again, we hear that students struggle with math. Every student takes math, often for multiple years, and it can be hard to get help from parents and friends," says Shreyans Bhansali, co-founder and Head of Engineering at Socratic. "We wanted to create an experience that walks students through their problems, and teaches the concepts behind the problem."

Socratic is bringing its magical photo input to math by reading math questions—even handwritten ones—and giving students step-by-step solutions and bite-sized "Explainers" that teach them the underlying concepts and help answer all types of math problems.

To build this experience, Socratic's pedagogy team looked through countless math questions asked by students and categorized them by the steps required to solve them. Then, they wrote high quality Explainers to teach these concepts, and tested them with hundreds of high school students.

In parallel, the engineering team built algorithms that allow a computer to solve math problems step-by-step. They incorporated the lessons learned by the pedagogy team so that steps closely match those a great teacher or tutor would provide to a student.

In addition to step-by-step solutions and custom "Explainer" content, the app also shows graphs, curated videos, and relevant definitions, helping students reach a deeper understanding of the problem.

"We're really proud of the experience we've built. Students can now break down their question into small steps, allowing them to gain confidence and learn how to solve similar questions on their own," says Bhansali. "We hope to provide an experience similar to working with a tutor, except it's free and on your phone."

In support of bringing free math help to students everywhere, Socratic is open-sourcing their work and inviting others to contribute. They're also extending coverage to teach students Calculus, Trigonometry and other math subjects.

"We know a lot of people care deeply about excellent math education. We believe our code has applications outside the Socratic app and we're excited to release the core step-by-step solution code as open source so others can extend it and use it as they see fit," says Bhansali.

With the launch of math and increasing coverage across other major subjects—Science, History, Economics, and Humanities—Socratic continues to make great learning content more accessible to students worldwide.

Read more about Socratic here

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