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PhotoMath app to dumb down students like never before: gives instant answer to picture of a math problem

(NaturalNews) First there were slide rules, then calculators, then more sophisticated calculator versions for specific types of mathematical applications. Now there is an app call PhotoMath that can be loaded into cellular smartphones and can copy the image of a math problem in a textbook and provide the answer.

Many educators are concerned about using the device to cheat on assignments. But the manufacturer, MicroLink, maintains it's designed as an educational tool. How so? Well, after receiving the instant answer to a problem that was photographed from a book or test sheet, there is a step by step mode which shows how the answer was derived.

The New York Daily News reported: "Izet Zdralovic, co-founder of the London-based company MicroBLINK that developed the product, told The News he understands the concern about students using it for less than honest purposes on their schoolwork but insists the program is a learning tool."

"A lot of people are saying 'oh my God, kids will cheat. When calculators were first introduced people were afraid of that, but now you can't go to school without a calculator," he said. "We don't just give answers but complete steps of how to get there."[1]

"If someone is a cheater they can always find a way to cheat. They can put the (question) on the Internet," he said. "Cheaters can use it to cheat but if you see the potential you can use it to learn."[1]

The app is currently able to handle ninth and tenth grade levels of math. But MicroLINk is working on boosting its genius math abilities to higher levels. The current model was introduced the day before Thanksgiving 2014, and by the next day there were 2 million downloads. Here's a short video demonstration of this app.[2]

How well does it work really?

Not every math geek concerned with education is impressed thus far. Reno, Nev., high school math teacher Glenn Waddell Jr. wrote an email to his school's department with the following warning:

"We need to think deeply about how we can create an environment of learning both in and outside the classroom, because the technology is making outside the classroom a moot point unless we make some changes long term."[1]

Those changes include backing off "drill and kill" assignments that are boring and less challenging, which enable the PhotoMath app to take over and further dumb down high school math students. Those assignments should be replaced with real life assignments that are beyond the capabilities of the PhotoMath app.

Stanford doctoral math student Dan Meyer is pulling for the app's success because, "If it could do everything it promised, it'd ideally mean teachers would assign fewer dull exercises and the more interesting problems that PhotoMath can't solve - real-world problems, questions that require arguments, estimation questions, graphing questions, etc."[1]

Meyer mentioned that, initially, he and his fellow teachers have discovered that the app doesn't work with a lot of reliability and had problems reading some problems. Some of the correct answers came to the solution in "unintuitive ways," he said.

"If it worked perfectly it'd absolutely change the kinds of math problems I'd assign - fewer of the kind PhotoMath could do automatically, more of the kind that require student thought," he said. "We're really far away from that, though."[1] In other words, not to worry so far about the little device doing all the thinking.

But what if one is in the middle of a problem and the device shuts down? The way our dependency on electronics, computer chips and cyberspace have developed does create potential doomsday scenarios of a civilization stalled by extreme sun flares or hacking or bombs that don't destroy anything but computers and the internet.

It's not too difficult to imagine a vehicle whose engines are monitored and controlled by onboard computers stalled, or banking systems down as well as other retail pay station systems.

But at least such a disaster would provide an excuse for not turning in one's homework assignment; that's better than "than my dog ate it"!

Sources for this article include:

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com

[2] http://vimeo.com/109405701

[3] http://www.naturalnews.com
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