Smartphones and tablets pack an incredible amount of computing power into a compact package, making them great portable calculating and mathematical tools. The right apps can take the headache out of dealing with mundane or complex calculations, or even make learning math — gasp — fun. If you're looking for great calculator replacements, detailed math reference tools or just plain fun math games, check out this list of our 10 favorite math apps for Android and iOS devices.
PCalc Lite (iOS)
PCalc Lite for iOS has a well-deserved spot on this list as a free, extremely flexible scientific calculator armed with powerful features. There are also numerous add-ons. The basic package gives you a fair amount to work with, such as trigonometric and logarithmic functions, a radian mode, undo and redo operations, as well as unit conversions and constants. Users looking for more power can buy additional features and operations through in-app purchases, or spring for the complete version for $9.99.
If you're looking for a tape-style calculator that keeps track of your operations and results, check out Digits on iOS, or CalcTape on Android. Both apps operate like smarter versions of the classic tape calculator, keeping track of operations and results, while adding provisions for text labels, and the ability to go back in your calculator history and change operations or figures, with the app automatically adjusting all other operations down the line.
Tydlig (iOS) ($1.99)
Why should we be slaves to what a calculator looked like decades ago? That's the thinking behind Tydlig, an iOS calculator app that uses a smart and responsive freeform canvas to blend a calculator-tape style view with spreadsheet-style functions like linked numbers and retroactive corrections. Users can annotate numbers and calculations and print or export the canvas to PDF. There's even a graphing feature with a slider for easily tracing values of functions on the graph.
MyScript Calculator comes to the rescue of those of us accustomed to writing down equations on pen and paper rather than transcribing them into a calculator. A handwriting recognition system allows users to write down equations and have the app calculate results. MyScript supports basic arithmetic, as well as percent, square roots, trigonometric (and inverse) functions, logarithms and constants such as pi and Euler's number.
If you're taking up algebra and calculus but can't afford a fancy dedicated graphing calculator, don't fret, as there are great options for free graphing calculator apps on iOS and Android devices. Free Graphing Calculator (iOS) and Algeo Graphing Calculator both provide great graphing calculator functions, as well as many scientific calculator operations and constants.
Wolfram Alpha's computational knowledge engine is a wizard when it comes to a wide array of subjects, so it's no surprise that it's also fantastic at queries involving math, numbers, calculations and statistics (along with 29 other disciplines). Not only will Wolfram Alpha help you do the math, it'll also give you formula details, graphic representations and explanations for how the app got to the solution.
When it comes to mathematics, it isn't just getting the final answer that's important; if anything, correct step-by-step solutions are far more important when it comes to teaching and learning math. More than just a calculator app, Mathway is a math learning aid that allows you to plug in equations and display step-by-step solutions to get to the final answer. Simply input the problem or import it in with your camera, and Mathway provides you with the answer and shows you each step of the solution to get there. Covering a range of topics from Basic Math to Algebra, Calculus, and Statistics, it's a useful study aid (though with the danger of a lazy student just copy pasting solutions without actually learning anything). The downside though is pricing, as Mathway's subscription for step-by-step solutions comes in at a fairly steep $19.99 per month.
Mathspace aims to replace physical textbooks entirely by providing students and teachers with a digital math textbook and course, complete with interactive lessons on a variety of topics. The app comes with more than 20,000 interactive problems that users can solve step by step, complete with handwriting recognition for writing down your solutions and answers. An adaptive learning engine provides clear feedback and always tries to keep problems properly challenging for your level. In addition, Mathspace includes video lessons, teacher feedback tools, and covers everything from algebra to geometry, graphing, probability and statistics. Mathspace supports Australian, UK and US Common Core curriculums, and requires a premium subscription, starting at $7.99 per week to $79.99 per year.
Another fantastic math reference app, Math Ref lets users look up more than 1,400 formulas across a number of math and science disciplines. While it isn't as expansive in scope as Wolfram Alpha, Math Ref's coverage of the basics makes it perhaps easier to navigate for those looking for fundamentals. Math Ref covers formulas from Algebra, Calculus, Trigonometry, Physics, Chemistry and more. The app also comes with extras such as a unit converter and calculator functions.
DragonBox Algebra 5+ is a genuinely clever educational math game that skillfully hides the fact that it's teaching your kids algebra. Targeted at kids aged 5 and up (really!), DragonBox Algebra starts out with simple logic puzzles that have kids matching symbols together to clear one side of the screen. Each puzzle adds new quirks and game rules that cleverly mirror the basic rules of elementary algebra, until in no time at all, your kids are unknowingly balancing the sides of an algebraic equation to isolate a treasure box symbol, gradually replaced with 'X'. The game features 10 chapters with 200 puzzles in total, and covers addition, division and multiplication.
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