Consumer Corner: Parents can find apps to help with school issues

Now that the thrill of saving a few bucks on school supplies during Ohio’s first-ever sales tax holiday has worn off, it’s time to get back to the back-to-school grind.

Despite the hectic mornings, packing lunches, and cries of “where are my shoes,” the daunting task of helping with homework may be the most stressful times for parents, and apps can help.

Textbooks no longer explain how to complete a problem, instead the teaching method today prefers that the child “productively” struggle to figure it out on their own, according to University of Dayton associate chair of the teacher education department, Janet Herrelko.

“Our parents, the grandparents in this case, were able to look at the textbook and help their son or daughter. Now, you need to go and look at an app,” Herrelko said.

Herrelko recommends parents use apps like Quizlet and Khan Academy to help with everything from math to history. She recommends the Wolfram Alpha app for parents who need to help their students with pre-calculus or calculus. ranked five apps that can speed up the homework process. The list included Wolfram Alpha, Photo Math, HWPic, Homework Helper, and Slader.

Photo Math allows you to hover your phone’s camera over a printed math problem and watch as it’s calculated before your eyes, even showing the steps to get to the solution.

Although it might be a good option for parents who need to check answers in a flash, Horrelko fears students will use it.

“This one kind of perturbs me. There is no struggle— no getting a wrong answer. There is no reason to understand. It’s not a teaching tool,” Herrelko said.

HWPic is a similar concept, but works for any subject. Users submit a photo of a question and a tutor will send an answer to you in minutes. Slader and Homework Helper are a crowdsourcing app where students submit and answer each other’s questions. These are free to download, but some services cost money.

“My recommendation is the minute you see a dollar sign pop up — leave that app and go find another one. There are plenty of free apps and websites to chose from,” Herrelko said.

Rachel Murray is a WHIO-TV consumer reporter. You can watch her reports each day on Newscenter 7.

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