Bottom Line: When your children have moved on from memorization of basic math facts and need support with math from Grade 4 through college, then look no further. This app has the answer to the most complex of problems free and thorough explanations for a fair price.
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Once upon a time I wore a size six and was nominated for Governor's Honors in Math. My days of fitting into sample sizes ended when I had twins and my prowess in mathematics disappeared before the ink on my college diploma was dry. Now, with the complexity of my 5th grader's homework fast approaching the outer limits of my remaining math knowledge, I'm relieved to know an app like Mathway exists to help a poor mom who believes that the square upon the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of go look it up yourself and make your bed while you're at it.
Mathway, by developer Bagatrix, is your child's own personal, infallible geek. It provides the answer to any math problem or equation. It goes far beyond even scientific calculators since it can process algebraic equations with multiple variables. The app is free to download and easy to use. Just put in the problem and out pops an answer. Using the app provides a surefire way to double-check homework.
If the answer on your child's paper is not what the app is showing or you consider it important to know how one arrives at the correct answer, then consider getting a subscription to Mathway. With the subscription service, each problem is worked out step by step. Individual subscriptions are available for Basic Math, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Trigonometry, Pre-calculus, Calculus and Statistics. If your child has been showing his work as he is supposed to, then together you can compare his paper to the diagram of the problem in the app. This step-by-step analysis allows the child to discover where in the process he made a mistake and fix it. As a parent, seeing the problem worked out also gives me just enough of a refresher to be able to help my child.
The app handles pretty much any equation with parentheses, brackets and multiple operators proving no match for the computer brain at work. Users should be aware, however, that the app can only work with numbers or variables. It cannot process those ridiculous word problems where Mary has two apples and Susie has six apples less than Tom and you have to figure out how many oranges Bob has. In these situations the user has to at least be able to write the equation from the information given in the problem.
Overall the app and interface are extraordinary. There is a help screen that offers comprehensive directions on how to select a subject, enter a problem, use the keyboard, view steps and manage your account. The app has special keyboards with all the appropriate mathematical symbols as well as guides on how to translate things like exponents which are usually superscripted into a recognizable format. In settings users can adjust example difficulty as well as control the level of detail given with an explanation from low to high. There are also numerous choices for how graphs will appear. Take that Microsoft Excel 2010.
The examples and glossary buttons accessible at the bottom of the screen have a wealth of information. The glossary has 300 mathematical terms and the definitions are cross-referenced with hyperlinks so when even the definition uses words you don't know, you can just keep clicking. Examples are available to show concepts from each subject area. Basic math has among its many topics long arithmetic, factors, proportions, ratios, area and volume as well as unit conversions in both metric and US forms of measurement. The explanation for "Find the area of the square" (entered as rectangle[20,20]) had four steps. First the square with its labeled sides was shown. Next the rule (The area of a square is equal to the length times the width) and corresponding equation (A=L*W) were written out. Step 3 has the values of the length and width which are both 20 substituted in for L and W. In the final step 20 is multiplied by 20 to get the answer of A=400. All explanations clearly identify the proper formula to use to solve the problem and all glossary terms appear in blue and are clickable for an instant pop-up definition which sure beats flipping to the end of a math text.
I put the app through its paces using actual problems from my child's math text as well as some doozies from an old algebra book my mom used when she taught math. It handled it all with aplomb. It takes a while to get used to the keyboard symbols, but the app is smart and tells you if input is incomplete. The subscriptions are not cheap when compared to prices of games and such in the iTunes store but neither is a qualified math tutor. Access to all seven subjects for a full year is $59.99. Given that a single session with a tutor can be $50, this is a small price to pay. Subscriptions can also be bought for single subjects and for shorter time periods (7, 30 or 180 days) for less money.
Mathway is magic pure and simple. Everybody should download the free app and sign up for a free account at Mathway.com which will remove all ads from the app. I would also highly recommend the subscription for any students struggling with math. It only gets harder as you move along so getting the basics down is essential. Homeschoolers should take a close look as well. It does provide a handy surefire way to skip actually doing homework and those evil problem sets, but with a little parental supervision and motivation on the part of the student, success in math is one step closer.
This review was written by Jill Goodman whose mother taught 7th grade math for many years. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.