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Navigating Math Education in the Digital Age: A Review of Leading Apps

By Rosy Darla and Ruby Wang

In today's digital age, educational applications have become increasingly popular to supplement traditional classroom instruction. With their engaging and interactive nature, they have the potential to transform the way students learn and master mathematical concepts. In our lab, we are passionate about educational technology.

Our team aims to identify applications that foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for mathematical principles. Join us on this journey as we evaluate the effectiveness of math educational applications.


Table of Contents

  1. Apps Featured in this Review

  2. Methodology

  3. Best App Overall: Khan Academy

  4. Strength and Weakness

  5. Conclusion


1. Apps Featured in this Review

01 Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a renowned non-profit educational organization created with the mission to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Khan Academy offers a vast array of instructional videos, practice exercises, and personalized learning dashboards across subjects ranging from mathematics and science to humanities, catering to learners from kindergarten to early college levels. 

02 Brilliant

Brilliant is an interactive online learning platform specializing in math, science, and computer science. It fosters problem-solving and critical thinking skills through hands-on learning and interactive content. Unlike traditional educational resources, Brilliant focuses on active learning by guiding users through complex concepts via storytelling and interactive problems. 

03 Socratic

Need to get unstuck? Socratic can help! Socratic, powered by Google AI, helps you understand your school work at the high school and university levels. Ask Socratic a question and the app will find the best online resources for you to learn the concepts.

04 IXL

IXL is a personalized learning platform widely recognized for its innovative approach to fostering educational growth across a range of subjects, including mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies. Designed to cater to students from pre-K to 12th grade, IXL offers a unique blend of interactive questions, real-time diagnostic tools, and tailored recommendations to meet individual learning needs.

05 Photomath

PhotoMath is a mobile app designed to solve mathematical problems using your smartphone's camera, making it a powerful tool for students and educators. By simply pointing the camera toward a handwritten or printed math problem, PhotoMath instantly provides step-by-step solutions, explanations, and interactive graphs. It covers a wide range of topics, from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus and algebra, facilitating a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts.


2. Methodology

Our approach began with app reviews, assessing the educational math apps to understand their core functionalities and educational strategies. Following this, a detailed feature analysis was conducted to dissect the apps' capabilities, from adaptive learning algorithms to interactive problem-solving features.

App Review

  • We aimed to assess math apps tailored for college students and beyond, focusing on mobile platforms for our analysis. Given our interest, we concentrated our search on apps available in the Apple Store. 

Feature Analysis

User Assumption

  • Our user assumptions were based on our hypotheses, a review of existing literature, and desk research. Due to limitations, we could not conduct formal persona validation; instead, we depended on our insights to get a well-rounded list. 

Feature Need Mapping


3. Best App Overall: Khan Academy

  • In our analysis, we grouped individual needs into overarching user goals and devised a goal score to quantify their importance. Instead of simply averaging the scaled need scores, we calculated goal scores by dividing the total unscaled points by the total possible points and multiplying them by 10. Although imperfect, this method reduced the need for subjective weighting, aligning with our reliance on assumptions rather than validated user insights. This technique ensured a fair representation of user goals.

  • Khan Academy is the best educational app out of the five apps analyzed. Our findings show that Khan Academy consistently outperforms its competitors across all analyzed user goals, with the exception of accessibility, as shown in the Need Scores Comparison Table above.

Key Features

Learning Progress Tracking

Khan Academy enhances the learning experience with detailed feedback and progress-tracking tools, allowing for real-time monitoring of learning progress. This includes reports on skill mastery, areas for improvement, and goal-setting capabilities, which are invaluable for guiding learners and enabling educators to support their students effectively.

Multi-representational approach to learning

  • In conclusion, Khan Academy’s comprehensive resources, commitment to free education, and emphasis on personalized learning distinguish it from its competitors. Excelling in educational outcomes and learning experience, Khan Academy firmly establishes itself as the optimal app, embodying its vision of offering anyone anywhere a free, world-class education.


4. Strength and Weakness

  • Khan Academy, Brilliant, Socratic by Google, IXL, and Photomath each offer unique educational experiences and tools. While one may excel in certain areas, others might better meet specific learning needs or preferences. Exploring the distinct advantages and potential limitations helps learners identify the most suitable app for their individual requirements, whether seeking comprehensive math education, interactive problem-solving, personalized learning paths, or real-world application of mathematical concepts.



Interactive Problem-Solving

Brilliant makes complex concepts accessible through interactive and multi-representative exercises (e.g., representing functions in various ways, animated steps). This hands-on approach caters well to learners who thrive on active engagement.

Motivation and Acknowledgement

Brilliant excels in keeping users motivated and acknowledged for their learning progress. Brilliant’s personalized notification and reminder system effectively keeps learners on track with their educational goals. The app gamifies the learning experience by awarding experience points for completed lessons.



Subscription Dependency

Access to Brilliant’s full suite of features requires a paid subscription, potentially limiting its accessibility to users unable or unwilling to invest financially.

Limited Community Interaction

Brilliant lacks deeper community engagement features, such as forums or direct messaging, limiting opportunities for learners to collaborate, discuss concepts, or share insights directly within the app.





5. Conclusion

  • In this project, we have focused on five educational apps: Khan Academy, Brilliant, Socratic, IXL, and Photomath. Despite their diverse approaches and target audiences, each app contributes uniquely to the education ecosystem, demonstrating the transformative power of interactive learning in enhancing mathematical understanding and academic success. 

  • Our goal for this project is to emphasize the importance of continuous innovation and inclusivity in educational technology, ensuring that learners worldwide have access to quality education tailored to their needs and preferences.

  • We hope you can explore these educational resources and discover the most suitable way to enhance your knowledge. Whether you aim to improve your math abilities or venture into new areas of study, there's an app tailored to your educational pursuits. The journey towards knowledge is one of the most rewarding adventures you can embark on. Let's celebrate the joy of learning and unlock our full potential together!

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