Apps That Make Great Additions to Your Phone
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 our 15 favorite math apps for Android and iOS devices. (Image Credit: perfectlab/Shutterstock)
PCalc Lite (iOS: Free)
PCalc Lite for iOS has a well-deserved spot on this list as a free, extremely flexible scientific calculator armed with powerful features that you can augment with 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.
CalcTape (Android: Free; iOS: $0.99)
If you're looking for a smart, tape-style calculator that keeps track of your operations and results, check out Calctape on Android and iOS. Calctape keeps track of your calculations on a paper tape but with the convenience of digital, allowing you to go back and change variables or operations and have those changes reflected down the line. Users can label and add new lines, and the premium version can save calculations into files, customize keypad layouts and share and print calculations.
Soulver (iOS: $2.99)
Soulver is a powerful replacement for the stock iOS calculator that mimics some of the best features of a tape-style office calculator while offering digital extras. Soulver displays all of your calculations in a straight column, allowing you to quickly reference previous calculations, while an editing cursor allows you to go backward and forward to change lines, with each modification automatically updated downstream. The app includes support for custom labels, unit and currency conversions. Users can save their sheets and share them or work on them later.
MyScript Calculator (Android, iOS: Free)
MyScript Calculator (Android, iOS) 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.
Photomath (Android, iOS: Free)
Of course, if you can't actually be bothered to write down an equation or problem, there's Photomath (Android, iOS). Simply snap a picture of a math problem and the app's handwriting recognition and camera calculator gives you an answer and step-by-step solutions. The app supports basic arithmetic, fractions, linear and quadratic equations and inequalities, systems of equations, trigonometry and more.
Khan Academy (Android, iOS: Free)
The educational non-profit Khan Academy (Android, iOS) provides an incredible variety of free educational videos and content on just about every topic under the sun, include a focus on math. Students can turn to Khan Academy’s library of videos and courses for guided or free study of math topics or to prepare for big tests, while teachers can mine the app for videos and educational content to enhance their lessons.
Desmos Graphing Calculator (Android, iOS: Free)
Graphing calculators are helpful tools for teaching calculus, but they can also be clunky and expensive. Not only is Desmos Graphing Calculator (Android, iOS) free, but it can take advantage of your smartphone’s computing power to support a wide variety of graphing functions. It also works offline without any problems. Users can input functions to display on a graph (with options for the Cartesian, polar, and parametric coordinate systems), animate parameters with sliders and view output tables and input points.
Wolfram Alpha (Android, iOS: $2.99)
Wolfram Alpha's (Android, iOS) 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.
Mathway (Android, iOS: Free)
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 (Android, iOS) 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 using your camera; 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 is pricing, as Mathway's subscription for step-by-step solutions comes in at a fairly steep $19.99 per month.
Socratic (Android, iOS: Free)
The Socratic method, which can be considered a precursor to modern scientific methodology, is all about asking questions. In honor of that, the Socratic app (Android, iOS) is all about helping your kids find the answers they need to their math and science-related homework. Simply take a photo of a math equation or homework question and Socratic's AI not only finds an answer, but delivers step-by-step solutions as well as important terms, definitions, and other things related to the question. While it's easy to turn Socratic into a tool for the lazy, a dedicated user can use the app to delve further and develop a deeper understanding of the subject at hand.
Mathspace (Android, iOS: $7.99/yr)
Mathspace (Android, iOS) 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.
Moose Math (Android, iOS: $1.99)
Your child can learn to count — and even get a rudimentary introduction to addition — with this colorful app starring a moose that runs a juice bar. Your kid can play around with a variety of minigames with a mathematical bent, such as Moose Juice, which has them following numerical recipes for smoothies: Add a specified number of each piece of fruit to a blender to complete the task at hand in both the Android and iOS versions of the app. App maker Duck Duck Moose produces a number of interactive apps aimed at the preschool-to-elementary crowd, and this counting app can really help your preschoolers and kindergartners get comfortable with numbers and following instructions.
Dragonbox Algebra 5+ (Android, iOS: $4.99)
DragonBox Algebra 5+ (Android, iOS) 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. A more complex version, Dragonbox Algebra 12+ (Android, iOS) tackles beginning algebra elements more thoroughly.
Prodigy (Android, iOS: Free)
Another app that gamifies math, Prodigy (Android, iOS) uses an MMORPG-like framework with challenges that you overcome by employing your math skills. The game keeps track of your profile, customizing its selection of challenges based on your strengths and weaknesses. Even better, Prodigy’s math questions are aligned with state level and common core curricula. Prodigy’s core functions are free, though a premium subscription tier allows for faster levelups and access to members-only areas of the app.
Calculords (Android, iOS: Free)
Elementary school arithmetic would probably be more amusing if you know you were going to use that knowledge to avenge the Earth. Calculords (Android, iOS) is an interesting fusion of lane defense, deck building, and, most importantly, basic arithmetic skills. You add, subtract and multiply numbers to play your troop cards to destroy the enemy base. Each victory earns you new cards and numbers to customize your deck. It also brings you that much closer to tracking down the dreaded Hate Bit as you seek revenge for Earth's destruction. Do you have what it takes to become the galaxy's greatest Star Nerd?