An app can tell you your heart rate, remind you to eat breakfast and soon, it will be able to do your math homework.
The MathElf app for iPads is an on-demand math tutoring application that covers pre-algebra to calculus. Launched about a year ago, Jaleh Afshar, a U alumni in graphic design, is now working as marketing director for the app and its website. Because of her connection to the U, she reached out to students in the math department.
Dylan Soller, a freshman in math, joined MathElf at the end of November 2015. Soller had never heard of tutoring apps before, but now he sees the benefits.
“Because it’s online, it is very flexible with my schedule,” Soller said. “Tutors and students are busy, so it’s good to have that flexibility with the time.”
This app is structured similar to Uber, where students can request math help at any time and a tutor will be there. Soller turns on the app, receives a notification that a student is requesting a session and claims. Most of his tutoring sessions last 20 to 30 minutes, but there is no time limit.
“Whether it’s one simple math equation or they need an actual one to two hour-long session on a subject, they can use this app,” Asfshar said.
Students select their math topic, snap an image of the problem and wait no more than a minute for a tutor to pick up the session and walk them through the problem on a virtual white board. The app is free for the first 30 minutes and then costs 50 cents for each minute after that. Tutors are paid by the hour and can pick their own schedule.
While tutoring apps may be uncommon, they are becoming more and more popular, especially in middle schools and high schools. This is the age group Soller is usually interacting with, and he doesn’t know anyone at the U who uses the service.
Afshar said apps like these are more accepted in countries like China and Japan, where parents encourage their kids to get extra help. MathElf is currently only used by English speakers, but they may expand in the future.
While Soller does not believe apps are going to replace in-person tutoring, he sees its potential to change the market as it develops.
“It’s the way that kids learn these days,” Afshar said. “Math is hard, but we want to make sure that learning math is accessible and easy for everybody — and affordable too.”