Tech: Apps that can help solve complex mathematical calculations

Nov 02, 2014, 08:12 IST | Harpreet Kaur Sapra

Do you struggle with both basic and complex calculations every time you come across one? You may be out of school but they never really leave us, do they? Here are a few apps and websites to help you crunch numbers or coach your kid in the subject

Maths is something you either love or hate; in school, you either enjoyed poring over complicated equations or feared the very prospect.

If you aren’t a maths whiz, don’t worry. There are excellent apps and websites to help you out. Pic for representational purpose only
If you aren’t a maths whiz, don’t worry. There are excellent apps and websites to help you out. Pic for representational purpose only

What happens after, though, when it is no longer mandatory to crunch numbers and work on complex equations? We have calculators for that, sure, but what about the time you want to teach your children, and numbers play mind games with you all over again? Or that moment when you are getting your home painted and need to calculate areas of five different parts of your home? Knowing maths hacks would make life so much simpler at those moments.

The answer, thankfully, lies in your smartphone. Whether it is maths you need to explain to someone, or figure out long calculations for practical purposes, these websites and apps are at your fingertips:

WolframAlpha [website and app]
Wolfram is a computational knowledge engine, and unlike traditional search engines, it does not search the web for results of queries or point towards millions of pages when you key your query in. It relies on its curated knowledge base compiled from various data sources and its own computational abilities (based on Wolfram’s Mathematica) to deliver replies. Once the app is downloaded, you need not log in with an email ID. You need to put in very specific queries to get precise answers — for instance, if you simply type ‘square root’, the app will give you the option to select square root as a function, as an English word, its use as a character and so on.


The search window has four tabs — Examples, History, Favourites and About. ‘Examples’ is good place to start as it tells you what the app is capable of and how to formulate your queries to get the best out of it. ‘History’ keeps a record of your past searches. ‘Favourites’ lets you add a specific search to the list and share it on social media.

The keyboard includes more mathematical symbols than a usual keyboard does and solves all equations from the basic addition/subtraction to algebra, calculus, geometry, plotting, logic and so on. Other than maths, Wolfram is capable of giving out results on topics related to people, history, cultures, money, art and design, socioeconomic data, astronomy, health and medicine — the list goes on. The basic edition, capable of doing all your medium level calculations, is free to use, but a Pro version is also available in a subscription model. Right next to the Search Box is a camera icon, which allows you to take a photo of an image to analyse or compute. This feature will also require an app purchase of Rs 60.

MyScript Calculator: (iOS, Android)
Some mathematical problems just need to be written down to be solved. This is where MyScript Calculator comes in. This free app lets you do the maths in your handwriting. The homescreen of the app looks like a basic Graphic Paper, with Undo, Redo and Trash Can options.

MyScript Calculator

The left hand side top corner has a button which takes you through options of setting the number of decimal points, switching to left-handed input etc. It also has one very interesting feature — Palm Rejection, which when turned on, enables the app to ignore the part of your hand that touches the screen, making it great for users who tend to rest their hand on the writing surface.

MyScript Calculator converts your hand-written equations (it recognises even the worst of scribbles) into clear notation and instantaneously provides the solution. It lets you do the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and perform trigonometric functions like sin, cos, tan, degrees, square roots etc. You simply need to keep writing the equation like you would in a note book and add to the mathematical expression until you get the full equation on the screen. You can even solve variables with question marks in it.

The only problem that you might initially face with MYScript Calculator is the shortage of space on your screen to write the full equation.

You cannot resize the display once the numbers have been written and recognised, so there may be no space left to add more expressions at a later time in the calculation and that means starting all over again, but writing in a smaller size.

PhotoMath [iOS, Windows]
The app, PhotoMath, is perfect for teaching maths to your child in an uncomplicated, yet thorough way.

Available for free on iPhone and Windows, the Android version is slated for release in 2015. After you download the app, you could allow the app to access your phone camera, point the camera towards the printed equation that needs to be solved and voila! The answer is on your screen.


PhotoMath also gives you the step-by-step solution, helping you understand the way a problem was solved.

As of now, the app does not recognise handwritten equations and can only read printed material, so it is ideal for solving problems directly from the course books. Apart from basic maths, PhotoMath is great at solving middle-school level problems, including numbers raised to powers, roots, fractions, decimals, linear equations and functions. According to the developers, it will soon be able to solve problems till high-school level.

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