How I use my iPhone and iPad as a college math teacher

As a college math instructor, I am a huge advocate for technology use in the classroom and regularly use my iPhone and iPad to enhance the learning experience for my students. Between using apps on the classroom projector, enabling Guided Access for student devices during exams, and preparing content at home, my iPhone and iPad are essential tools for me as a teacher.


As an adjunct (part-time) instructor, I am not required to hold office hours, nor do I have a space to do so if I wanted. To make up for this, I encourage my students to contact me through email for questions and hints. So the first, and most obvious, way I use my iPhone is for emailing my students. I love being able to respond to my students at any time, because it shows them that I care, and it ultimately makes me more approachable.


Since my response to most emails require the use of mathematical symbols, I turn to my iPad and Noteshelf to handwrite my responses to eliminate any confusion for my students. My stylus of choice is the Pogo Sketch Pro. Once I have my response written up nicely, I email it to the student as a PDF. Then I post it to my website for other students to benefit from, as well.

Quick Graph

During class, I use the projector combined with a 30-pin to VGA Adapter (opens in new tab) and my iPad to graph equations with Quick Graph. I could use my TI-89 graphing calculator, but Quick Graph is a much faster and better looking option. It's even better than using Grapher on my MacBook Air. My students are always impressed and often download Quick Graph right there in class to mimic me and follow along.

Guided Access

Speaking of calculators, for courses where I allow calculator use on quizzes and exams, Guided Access lets me allow students with iPhone and iPads to use their device as a calculator. At the start of the exam, I lock them into a calculator app that I approve of; then when they turn in the exam, I grant them full-access to their device by entering the password. My students really like this because it's one less device to buy and carry around.


After taking a quiz or exam, students immediately start asking for solutions so they can see how they did and to study for their final exam. That's where Notability comes in. As much as I love Noteshelf, it doesn't support PDF annotation, so I turn to Notability for writing up solutions by importing my files directly from Dropbox. Another option would be to write on a physical exam, then use Scanner Pro to "scan" it into PDF form, but Notability allows me to make use of rich colors and crisp pen strokes, and easily fix any errors I make. Once the solutions are written up, I post them to my website as a downloadable PDF.


In addition to using my website to give students access to important PDF files, I also use it to post homework assignments and any other important announcements relevant to the course. Sometimes I do this on a Mac, and other times I use WordPress on my iPhone or iPad.

Doodlecast Pro

Before I upgraded to a Bamboo tablet and Camtasia 2 on my Mac, I used Doodlecast Pro on my iPad to record videos for difficult topics we were learning. Combined with my Pogo Sketch Pro, I was able to easily post instructional videos to YouTube that my students found very valuable.


With teaching, comes grading. To keep track of my students' grades, I use Numbers on my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. I primarily use my Mac, but if I need to update a student's grade in class, I will usually pull out my iPad and make the correction right there in front of the student. It's also great for those inevitable times when a student wants to know where they stand in the class right now.

How do you use your iPhone and iPad for teaching?

And that about sums up how I use my iPhone and iPad as a mathematics instructor. If there's any other teachers around, I would love to hear how you use your iOS devices to enhance the learning experience for your students.

Former app and photography editor at iMore, Leanna has since moved on to other endeavors. Mother, wife, mathamagician, even though she no longer writes for iMore you can still follow her on Twitter @llofte.

  • I would have loved this teaching method when I was in class, very impressed Leanna!
  • Totally agree! Thanks For sharing Leanna
  • 42... I see what you did there.
  • :)
  • This one of the most useful articles I have ever read. Thanks Leanna!!
  • I love the articles is going to be very useful for me one question though what kind of the stylus it's on those pictures thank you
  • Pogo sketch pro, I mentioned it a couple times :P
  • Thank you
  • Nice job with the guided access on the calculator, but I wish you wouldn't let them use it at all!
  • It depends on the level of the course. Remedial courses are not allowed calculators.
  • I am a student and this is how it works at my school. Most simple math is done so many times it comes naturally, however, with several steps to most advanced math, its so easy to make little mistakes. Once in precalculous its more about learning the concepts and understanding them than all the little steps a calculator can help with. Plus, since most teachers require work to be shown (most grade primarily based off if you did the work right rather than a right answer) you still learn the concepts.
  • Take a look at Remarks. You might flip to it over Notability. The instructors I work with are really into it.
  • Remarks is a great app. At the time I was using it, though, it crashed on me a lot and I lost a LOT of work. I think it's more stable these days, but I'm already all set up with Notability and just haven't given Remarks another shot, yet.
  • Great succinct article! Check out my thoughts on education and the iPad at Steve
  • Hi would you recommend noteshelf for taking notes in English, Anthropology, psychology with a keyboard. I'm looking for a note talking app but can not find the right one before I buy it. Also what would be your best stylus?
  • Meh. I'd only use Noteshelf for handwritten notes. I use the pogo sketch pro.
  • What would you suggest for taking notes with a keyboard, I would like to keep it neat like it would be on a laptop & I know you mentioned that stylus above just wondered if you liked any other ones that might be better.
  • A lot of students like CaptureNotes. It offers a hybrid of handwritten and typed notes as well as other useful features like audio notes.
  • I'm also a math professor. Those are some good tips, thanks Leanna. I also use PocketCAS as a calculator. And Formula for writing LaTeX type math.
  • I haven't used anything but my Mac for LaTeX, now I'm gonna see what I can find :)
  • Excellent article. I am a Secondary Teacher of Mathematics in the UK (11-18 yo) and have just been given a remit for enhancing learning and teaching using technology. Not just doing things differently but effectively. I will work with 5 other departments using 7 class sets of iPads and AppleTVs to mirror our teacher displays. We plan on using a concept known as 'fliiping the classroom' in which students will access some material from home and use class time to put their theory into practice. We have 3 MacBook Pros and will create some materials using iBooks author and apps such as Explain Everything, Educreations, Evernote, skitch and some others on our teacher iPads. We plan on adding our materials to iTunesU and use it as our VLE. I am very excited by this and hope that it will give our pupils a new and exciting experience. I have been using my iPad in my own classroom practice for several years and have found it to be an excellent motivational tool for disengaged pupils. Thanks for an excellent article. Again, another reason why iMore is my first stop for all tech news.
  • I'm very familiar with flipping a class and would love to do it one day.
    Take a look at DragonBox. It's an AWESOME iPad game for teaching equations. If I had enough iPads for a class, I'd make all my students complete the game.
  • I will, thanks. Always on the lookout for new apps that I can use in class. I'm also a fan of using some non content specific apps to showcase pupil learning. Animation creator is good for that for example. Maths seems to be one of those subjects that has a slew of apps that can enhance the classroom experience. Other subjects are not so lucky so my challenge as manager of this project is to try and source methods/apps that will help the teachers I'm working with who haven't had the chance to use them before now.
  • Any advice would be welcome Leanna
  • Yes, there are a lot of math apps, but NOTHING compares to DragonBox. You absolutely must use it and report back to me on how it went :) I think a lot of the apps I mentioned in this article would be great for all subject areas.
  • I will thanks for that. The apps mentioned above will suit every subject area you're right. I've used most if not all of them in my own practice. Fan of penultimate as well. Evernote and its tools are very popular with a lot of my peers in other establishments. Will let you know of progress. Thanks again.
  • Ah, a kindred spirit also using IOS devices in class! :D
    I am an elementary school teacher using an ipad in class as well. My macbook air is hooked up to the classroom projector, with my ipad mirrored to the whiteboard via airserver (configured as a 2nd screen). This allows me to teach while moving around the classroom, so I can better monitor my pupils. I have my own mobile router because my school's network does not support airplay. :/ As for apps,
    1) Notability - all my assignments are stored in dropbox in pdf format, so I just download the ones I need for my lessons and annotate them as need be.
    2) Goodreader - For managing all my documents.
    3) Iworks for IOS - Numbers for keeping track of homework submissions and admin stuff (collection of forms etc). Pages for when I need a work processor, and keynote for simply ppt presentations I create for pupils and school.
    4) Educreations / showme - These are whiteboard apps that I use to 'write' on the board. They also allow me to easily create screencasts of my lessons, which the pupils can then view from the respective websites. Currently favouring educreations.
    5) Camera: My classroom has no visualiser. When I want to showcase something, I simply take a photo of it on my ipad, import into educreations, and annotate on it. This is why I laugh when people wonder who would be foolish enough to use the ipad as a camera. They simply have no imagination.
    6) Socrative apps - I sometimes create simple quizzes for my pupils, and socrative is a great way to administer them, and quickly generate feedback on the spot. The app is much more convenient than the web version.
    7) I just downloaded this app called markup for showme, which lets pupils email their work directly to the app on my ipad. I can then (in theory at least, haven't had a chance to play with it yet) grade it by annotating on it, then email it back to the pupil in pdf format (the app consolidates this into a single button tap).
    8) Misc apps like google drive, wordpress, dropbox for work. I am trying to 'flip my classroom' as well, but am having problems with getting pupils to visit and view my materials on a regular basis, especially the weaker ones for whom these materials were specifically created for. But yeah - I feel the ipad is easily one of the best tools created for education ever! :)
  • Wow. Amazing article. Thanks for sharing!
  • I'm a university math professor. I started using the iPad in the classroom a little over a year ago. I now use the iPad with a projector, rather than the chalkboard in class. I create some PDFs (using LaTeX on my Mac) with some examples set up and some blank spaces to work them out. In class, I work through the examples (using Note Taker HD, which I settled on after trying many note-taking apps). At the end of class, I export a PDF which I put on the course web site, so we all have easy access to a record of what we did in class. Unfortunately, my campus wireless network doesn't support AirPlay, so for now I'm tethered down via the VGA cable (and IT doesn't want us bringing our own routers into the classroom). I mostly do this for my linear algebra class at this point; I don't think it would work as well for some other classes I teach. I'd really love to have a second (and possibly third) iPad out among the students, where they could work on the examples, and then have them share their results with my iPad so I could show them on the screen and perhaps further annotate them. There are some screen-sharing note-taking apps like AirSketch, which will set itself up as a little server that clients can connect to in order to push their data to), but they aren't very feature-full on the actual note-taking side, and I haven't found one I like yet.
  • I'm a high school math teacher. One of the best applications that I have been using has been Doceri. I have been using it to record lectures for a flipped classroom. It also allows me to wirelessly connect to a laptop that is plugged into a projector so that I can write notes with a stylus and walk around my classroom at the same time. I also constantly use a stylus and I've found that I really love the ones with a cloth tip. They seem to last a lot longer. I don't remember the cost for Doceri, but I do know that it was completely free to try everything. It was only a small in app purchase to get rid of watermark.
  • Don't you miss the chalk dust?
  • I actually do! I get so excited when I get to teach in a room with a chalkboard instead of white board.
  • You all should definitely try the free app Myscript Calculator It calculates handwritten (even complex) formulas
  • Yep! MyScript Calculator is awesome!