Things I Know 236 of 365: They haven’t built an app that can hold my math notes!

If people do not believe that mathematics is simple, it is only because they do not realize how complicated life is.

– John Louis von Neumann

The proper iPad app for taking notes in math doesn’t yet exist. I’ve been researching the available options for the last few months. I’ve tried Evernote and PaperDesk. I’ve used Notes and checked out NotesPlus. Still nothing does what I want it to.

For notes in every other class, for study group messages, annotating readings and finding ancillary sources, I’ve a great workflow. Evernote, GoodReader, Google Docs and Safari all get the job done quite nicely.

For math, though, I’m still stuck.

It occurred to me yesterday that the problem might lie in the fact that every app I’ve investigated thus far is imitating rather than innovating. Every one of them wants to be paper — plus a little something extra.

They all start from the paradigm of an actual pad of paper and ask, “What have people always wanted their notebooks and legal pads to do?” From there, each app works to add on. Maybe the additions create a watered down legal pad or maybe the iPad only looks like a notebook. Either way nothing yet strikes me as approaching the problem from a new way.

I saw this video yesterday and thought, “My iPad can’t do that.” I know I can install iMovie and import images, but the kind of free-form playing Vi Hart showcases in her video isn’t possible on my iPad. It should be, though, right?

I, along with any other math student working on an iPad, should have an infinite white board at our disposal with the ability to call up the most complex calculator possible and then copy and paste the order of computations onto the white board so we can annotate what we’ve done. Think an infinite Prezi with the ability to bookmark according to dates and key terms. I want to teraform a white board into a world of mathematics, map it out and then use my iPad as the window through which I visit and manipulate the world. Think of it as Sims meets Presi meets the best parts of Super Mario Bros. 2.

For now, I have a spiral-bound notebook for my math notes. Every other class and meeting is synced to the cloud and the notes and annotated readings from each can be emailed or linked out to friends, classmates and study group members. My math notes will live and die with my notebook — until someone builds something better. No, not better. Different.


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