I'm tempted to go one step further and say that it's hard to see it as much more than a "do my homework for me" app, but I know that's too harsh. Some wise users might turn to it only to check their answers, or to get a hint about the next step if they're stuck. But as a professor, I've seen just how easy it can be for even strong students to come to over-rely on "Help, I'm stuck!" opportunities if they're available, and that doesn't assist with learning. (In one memorable case, that opportunity was me in my office, and I eventually had to limit my supply of helpful hints.)
When I began taking Calc 2 (as an adult who's worked and gone back to school), I found wolfram alpha's integral solver to be INCREDIBLY helpful for working through practice problems (to your point, I was using it as a check/next step assistance). I ended up with an A in that class because of Wolfram's ability to help me work through a problem regardless of the hour, or day.
I think if this (or a similar app) helps students work through problems and recognize errors they're making, it can absolutely be beneficial. I would concede with respect to the homework solver aspect, but hope that teachers could some how incorporate this into their classes, something along the lines of an account management system that shows the teachers which students are requesting which equation.
In my mind the reason for problems is to practice the techniques taught until you can:
a) avoid common pitfalls
b) recognise common patterns
c) minimise calculation errors with sense checks
However, when this problem set is marked and impacts your results obviously the incentives change from learning by doing to getting 100%. Once you have an app like this for "checking", it takes decent appreciation of the long term outcomes to avoid using it for "solving" and then going off to play some Frog Fractions.
Applications like this are BEST used when utilized as yet another "tool" in the proverbial toolbox, and NOT as an endgame(ie: not a problem solver).
I too used WA to great benefit when taking the full calc series at my university and I credit it to helping me achieve straight A+'s in the series(the ONLY A+'s I EVER received in Uni). Yes, I studied my butt off too, and looked at outside work to learn the material, but WA helped ensure I was on the right track, or at least gave me "hints" as to what I was doing wrong. I never once used it as a solution, merely a calibration of my methods.
So yes, I think there are definite places for tools like these in the classroom, as much as it may seem like they are "cheats".
> This is like having an app run a marathon for me - it's easier, but I'm not changed through the work.
I'm not advocating that students use this to cheat on their homework. I'm just pointing out that most people reading an algebra textbook aren't in there for self-improvement. They just want a good grade.
 fat face and look like a zombie are the most popular, but I was most impressed with Abs Booth
edit: the developer should also note that searching by name does not work unless you add the app name as a keyword. I have submitted bug reports for both issues (18735078 and 18735109)
And got in trouble for writing programs in OPL to solve math problems.
I reckon I deserved extra credit for initiative. The experience of learning to program has certainly turned out to be ultimately more useful than learning to do math without a calculator.
(Not that I think that learning to do math without a calculator is useless, mind you.)
Then I dropped it on a steel deck, broke a hinge and the power lines from the battery case. Never have pulled it apart to rebuild, but it's in my closet still, 15 years later :)
I was using it on screens though as opposed to paper.
Results: As of now, it can only solve some linear equations. It did successfully solve one quadratic but it couldn't decide if the variable was r or e (the variable was x). It was largely unable to solve handwritten problems, even simple arithmetic.
note: This is a copy/paste of a comment I left on reddit /r/math and /r/windowsphone.
I'm halfway through a thesis, so it's too late for me, but others could have a notorious learning curve eased somewhat.
Android app link here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=coolcherrytree...
I don't think it's easy.
Sure, you'll need to spend some time to understand the fundamentals of solving the problem, but afterwards (and just like in real life) you'd punch the problems into the computer and solve them.
This leaves the field open to expand the lesson into more in-depth topics, rather than getting bogged down on the simple math.
btw, suite of similar apps will follow in chemistry and physics now
When I was learning math we had to draw out equations in sand, with roman numerals. Digits make students lazy. Instead of actually visualizing the numbers geometrically, all they need to do is play around with numbers.