* Step 2: Align the (homework, duh) problem you want to solve within the app’s little red frame brackets, watch a sprinkling of animated white dots sparkle while the app thinks for a second or two or three -- and Boom! The refreshingly clean and simple app, in both user interface and in functionality, is only available for i OS devices and Windows Phone for now. Before you download the app (because you know you want to, corner cutter), know that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns. The magic happens in two easy steps: Step 1: Launch the app and aim your smartphone at a math equation. Well, at least it should and most of the time it does. To see each step used to unravel the equation, just tap the word “Steps” that appears on your smartphone screen. Cue the collective mirth of math haters everywhere -- and the collective ire of math teachers the world over. Not until sometime in early 2015, according to its creators.*

After you know what you’re being asked, you can then think about what it will take to get that answered.

You should have some idea at this point of the equation that will be needed to find a solution.

You can ask these three questions of any word problem, in any type of math. Take the following situation for example: A plane leaves Toronto, Ontario (Canada), heads to Newark, New Jersey, and then heads to Seattle, Washington.

It’s a simple process, but it will break down all the important elements of any math problem. Along the way to Seattle, a storm forces the plane to head north in order to get around it.

Specifically, we’re talking about equations here and the most important variables.

If you know what you are looking for and you can then name the pieces you need to find, even the most difficult problems become extremely manageable.

Related: This Smart Skin-Scanning App Could Save Your Life Unfortunately the app mistook a simple division problem from the workbook for a square root problem, then, of course, spit out a square root problem answer. If you’re a fourth grader, you probably wouldn’t realize that Photo Math gave you the wrong answer. However, we had to significantly brighten the lighting around the math worksheet that we aimed our i Phone 6 at to coax the app into taking a clear snap, even after tapping the app’s light icon.

Photo Math’s makers boast that their wonder product can crack basic arithmetic, fractions and decimals, powers and roots and linear equations, all in a single click. But it can’t solve handwritten or word problems -- nor, get this, a fourth-grade California Common Core Math Standards Practice Book problem we tried it out on. We also tried it on several eighth-grade algebra problems (also California Common Core issue) and it worked every time -- much to a certain 13-year-old’s delight.

Here’s a great article that explains the problem with keywords and includes a helpful exercise to help kids think about the situation.

Although each word problem includes the term “total,” they all require a different operation to solve it, forcing kids to think about the situation. Finally, looking for keywords is not practical advice for real world problem solving.

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