I ran this for a month on Math Educators, with no good answers. I'm now reposting here.

I'm looking for a web app for tutoring math remotely to high school and junior high kids that ideally has the following:

  • Built-in graphing. The exemplar for this is the application Geogebra, which not only allows graphs, but also has a table view, sliders, and animation, and is scriptable. Indeed, a networked multi-user large canvas version of Geogebra would meet most of my requirements.

  • Built-in drawing tools. At a minimum: freehand, line, polygon, text, and eraser. Drawing tools should be vector based and not pixel based, so they can be easily moved and edited.

  • Editing tools: It should be possible to change stroke, fill, fontsize, font color, location, rotation.

  • Additional desirable tools: Marque select, group, layer, lock, bezier, arc, fill.

  • Desirable Stationery: Various kinds of lined/graph paper including graph paper with index lines (heavier lines) Polar coordinates, log, log-log etc. This could be done as a PDF or GIF image layer, or best, would be as a fill you could position in a rectangle.

  • Multipage canvas. Application should not be limited to a single screen.

  • Persistent sessions. I want to come back tomorrow and see it how I (or my partner) left it.

  • Multiple simultaneous editing. I should be able to edit one thing while another user is editing elsewhere. This may mean that the other user may be on a different page from me. As an adjunct, a way of seeing what changes were made while I wasn't looking at a page would be useful -- deleted items in pink, and new ones in green maybe.

  • Handwriting recognition for math. This one is tough. MyScribe MathPad looks good, but it's online demo only does a single equation at a time. webFluidMath has one approach, but it's not really ready for prime time. It took me 6 attempts to get ax^2 +bx + c = 0, and I never was able to do a 2x2 matrix. In principle I could create the equation in one app and paste it in, but this makes editing difficult, and gets in the way of teaching the derivation of a theorm or equation.

  • A keyboard approach is an acceptable alternative. The best of these I've found so far is Lyx, which has a combination of keyboard and mouse selection. MathML requires lots of extra () to be added. FrameMaker's equation editor got one thing correct with the use of a space character to exit one level of nesting. Lyx does this too. I do NOT want to type full TeX.

    For this reason I'm not considering various TeX enabled chat room programs.

  • Handwriting recognition is desirable, but not required. I will live with my scrawls if need be.

  • Compatible with iPad. Apple limits script functionality on their platform. Notability is has a decent approach on the iPad. You can draw, you can bring in PDFs and annotate, add images, and draw on them etc.

Note that none of the applications mentioned (Geogebra, Mathpad, webFluidMath, Lyx, Notability) is collaborative software in the sense that multiple people can use it in real time, seeing the changes that the other party has made with only minor delays.

The use of 'networked' here means Internet -- The two parties will NOT be on the same LAN. I do not care if it is application based, or web based, except that if the former, it has to run on iPad, Windows >=XP, and Mac >= 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

TeamViewer is one example of a desktop sharing app. This is one approach, but only one user can control the mouse/keyboard at a time, and whatever app you are using is limited to the present screen. Teamviewer is clunky to use on a network with significant latency (over 100 ms).


  • Real Time Interactive (RTI): All parties can write at the same time, on different parts of the canvas, possibly different screens, using different tools. Delay between updates measured in seconds.

  • Turn Based Interactive (TBI): Only one person can draw at a time. All people see the same screen/zoom/view. TeamViewer works like this.

  • Shareable: One person can create a document, publish it to some form of cloud repository, then other people can edit it. Google docs works like this most of the time.

  • Presentation*: Other people have read only access, possibly in real time, possibly saved as a recorded session.

  • Persistent: A session can be stopped then later resumed even if there is a period when no one is using the document.

  • Transient: Session vanishes when creator or last client quits the application.

  • Pixel based graphics (PBG): Tools change the color of pixels on the screen. Generally impossible to edit.

  • Vector Graphics (VG): Entities have individual existence, so you can move parts around after creating them, and change attributes such as line width, size, stroke color and fill.

Existing product limitations:

Most of these evaluations were done quickly, and stopped once I ran into 2-3 items not on my wish list. Some of these may be useful for other purposes.

  • iDroo: VG, RTI, limited drawing set. Pencil, line, rectangle, ellipse, text. No math. Objects can be moved and rotated. Marque select to move multiple objects.
    Can drag and drop images onto the canvas, or into a column on the edge, where they are stored as thumbnails. Active development. Most usable whiteboard of the lot. Best whiteboard for casual tutoring. http://www.idroo.com/

  • VMT: This is the virtual math team project at Drexel university. Their Java app can run sharable whiteboard or geogebra in a tabbed interface. Whiteboard is clunkly and somewhat limited. GeoGebra has a HTML5 Canvas version in Beta. Worth Watching. Geogebra tabs can be pre-loaded with a Geogebra worksheet. Best for instructing a class. Thousands of geogebra files available.

  • Baiboard is one collaborative app that has possibilities. It's sketch + PDF annotate with the ability to save snapshots at any time. Multiple screens. This is a good example of the collaboration aspect. The drawing tools are weak. Only available on iPad and Mac, and the Mac version is much more limited. Persistent, RTI

  • Groupboard: Limited VG: Objects can be moved, but not modified, RTI. Math is limited to pasting from a limited symbol set. http://www.groupboard.com/demo/math.shtml

  • Groupworld: This is from the same people as Groupworld. Same crap, different pile.

  • Board 800: Limited VG: Objects can be moved, but not modified, RTI. Limited drawing set. No math. Multi page.

  • Tutorsbox: VG, RTI. Objects can be moved but not modified. Limited tools. Line, circle, square. Function grapher. Has wysiwyg math editor, but it operates in a modal window, which makes deriving something tricky -- you cannot see the previous line. https://tutorsbox.com/en/ Plans start at $9/month

  • Show me: Pixel based. No editing. P.o.S.

  • RocketBoard: This is an actual white board sharing app: You write on a whiteboard using standard markers, and the app corrects for perspective, and adjusts contrast. Slick way to lecture. BUT …

    • No way to import material, or graph paper.
    • No way for me to annotate another person's work, or for them to copy/paste from my work except as a bit map.
  • AWW A Web Whiteboard: Pixel based, no erase except clear, 4 colors. P.o.S.

  • Scribblar: $9/month. Free plan doesn't have many features. Untested.

I have asked for recommendations elsewhere on Stack Exchange but have not received good results.

Similar posts:

  • Did you ever find exactly what you're looking for? I'd be interested in something like this too...
    – Colin
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 20:11
  • No, I didn't. I have paused in my search right now, as I'm putting the trees to bed for winter. (I make my living as a tree farmer.) I will continue to update the question with my 3 line mini-reviews when I pick up the search. At this point the geogebra web version is the best alternative. Commented Oct 28, 2014 at 12:53

4 Answers 4


I would suggest taking a look at iPython Notebooks and possibly coLabatory:

  • All your graphing requirements should be met by the plotting functions available
  • Collaboration via Google Docs
  • Results publish via NB Viewer
  • Formulas can be entered, admittedly via Math Markdown and/or Tex
  • ColabLab does have give real time interaction that you are specifying
  • I have yet to find a free hand drawing tool for it but there may be one out there as there are a lot of python based drawing tools.
  • iPython fails if it's not RTI. coLaboratory doesn't have any documentation that I can find other than some brief install instructions. Its collaboration model still seems to be fraught with difficulties. Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 3:29
  • @SherwoodBotsford - I agree that it seems to be early days for coLabatory but still plan to keep an eye on it as once there are a couple of issues addressed - documentation being a prime one - it could be very useful. Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 12:51

Having been a math tutor and aspiring computer programmer since about 2014, I feel I should share my experiences with trying to find/make software to solve this very problem. I recognize that this may not fully answer the question asked, but I feel I should give it a try anyway given my unique perspective.

First, a bit of history:

I started tutoring professionally back in 2012 while I was going to college. I was tutoring mainly math and doing so mainly in an in-person setting. As management of the tutoring department shifted, we would typically be assigned to various different roles. One such role involved being embedded within a given math course for the duration of the semester to answer any student questions. Through this experience, I watched first hand as many different math teachers struggled to use smartboards or other pen/touch enabled devices to present math. This experience lead me to wonder if there was a better whiteboard program for use on such devices. After searching for such a system myself and coming up empty, I concluded that, for the moment, they were using the best that was available.

That all changed when I took an intro to programming course in the spring of 2014. It was then that I saw how such a whiteboard program might be made, and that I could, in theory, create my own whiteboard program and have it do whatever I want. From then on, I had that idea in the back of my mind, and would come back to it periodically in my free time. My first attempts didn't go very well, but I persisted none the less. Eventually, I created a chrome app that was fairly successful, and more recently a desktop application which I will explain below.

About my app

First, I will cover what my app is not:

  • It is not collaborative or multi-user. I believe that programs should specialize in doing one thing and do that one thing really well. Thus, I have focused on building a good whiteboard on which to do math. There are many various collaboration tools out there which allow the sharing of one's mouse & keyboard, so for the moment, I will let those programs specialize in that area.
  • It is not server-based. I am only a hobbyist, so I simply don't have the funds required to pay for and maintain a server. Furthermore, in a classroom setting, the teacher should be able to at least continue drawing even if the network goes down. Thus, I have built it as a standalone desktop app.
  • It is not vector-based. I recognize fully that it would have been far more powerful if it had been built using a vector-based system. However, as a hobbyist, this would have added too much complexity for my abilities. I did not want to spend several extra years worth of tracking down bugs in such a complicated system, while having the program regularly crash in the middle of my tutoring sessions. Furthermore, for teachers and tutors who are already familiar with a traditional dry-erase board, they are essentially already acquainted with using a pixel-based system, and the additional learning curve involved with using a vector-based system can sometimes be challenging.
  • It does not run on iPad yet. I have plans to create a mobile application, and will probably try to make it compatible with iPads, but at the moment I lack the $100+ per year to actually publish the app on iOS. Here again, I am just a hobbyist. It is hard to justify spending that much to give my program away for free.
  • It does not have handwriting recognition. I have personally found that this particular feature seems to get in the way more often than not. I find that it is just faster to write in math syntax than have it interpreted and then correct the misinterpretations. I have however found that a good penabled/wacom screen is very helpful for this purpose. In fact, I have written an entire article about my various hardware experiments. Feel free to check it out here.

However, even with all of those shortcomings, the current version of my app does incorporate many of the features you desire. These include:

  • Built-in Graph Paper. You can easily insert graph paper and Cartesian coordinate plane pages from the main interface.
  • Built-in Drawing Tools. I have incorporated: freehand pen, eraser, rectangle, ellipse, undo & redo within the current page, copy & paste within each page and across pages, straight line, dashed line, central line, dashed central line, dot (useful when the audience can't see your mouse), identifier (also useful when the audience can't see your mouse), resize-paste, page rotation, insert text (including many math symbols not found on regular keyboards), and import/export image sections to your computer's clipboard.
  • Editing Tools: All tools in the program access their color from the global color setting on the main interface. The same is true for the size parameter. This setup makes it very easy to know what size/color will be used in any given circumstance.
  • Stationary Library. I have personally created approximately 40 templates that can easily be inserted via Insert Page -> Other. You can also insert your own custom stationary from image files as well.
  • Multipage Canvas. This was perhaps the main reason I built this program! You can easily insert additional pages and navigate between them.
  • Persistent Sessions. You can easily save the entire set of pages as images within a folder on your computer for later reference or perhaps distribution to your students. You can also enable auto-save in the settings. Furthermore, instructions are provided if you wish to zip the images up into a single file for distribution purposes.
  • Runs on Windows (7 & up), Mac, and many Linux systems. The app is based on the Electron framework, so it should be fairly cross-platform.
  • Additional Tools/Features: 1. Import PowerPoint or LibreOffice Impress presentations into the program. (Detailed instructions provided within the program). 2. Page duplication. Useful if you want to edit something that you may not want to preserve or compare it to the before version. 3. Make the current drawing un-erasable. Here again, this can be useful if you need to draw over something but be able to erase only the upper layer. 4. Insert Screenshots. This can come in handy if perhaps you want to make something in Geogebra, and then incorporate that content into the set of pages. Or perhaps if you use an online math textbook and want to quickly insert one of the problems to work through. 5. Use inverted color templates. This is nice for reducing eye strain, and some students may prefer a black background. 6. Large buttons & scroll bars where possible. I have done my best to make this program easy to use with a pen/finger. I watched too many teachers struggle with those darn scrollbars to leave them at their default size. This should make life easy for you regardless of what hardware you use.

If this sounds like something that might be useful to you, feel free to check it out at http://rogersmathwhiteboard.com. Otherwise, I hope you find something that you find useful. I feel your pain. This is a really complex problem to solve.

Hope that helps.

  • Good for you. This looks interesting. I will check that out. One thing that should be easy to add would be layers. E.g. If you have the student do a problem, then you can mark it (in red of course...) and he can erase and correct his mistakes, then when you check it again, you erase your red marks. Another feature would be some way to insert space. I often have kids that skip steps, which is fine if they do the inbetween stuff correctly, but sometimes I'd like to drag the bottom 2/3 of the problem down an inch and say, "fill in the missing stuff." Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 15:20
  • Thank you @SherwoodBotsford! Feel free to share your thoughts & suggestions via the feedback section of http://rogersmathwhiteboard.com. I like your two suggestions! Regarding layers, you might be able to: 1. Have the student work a problem on page x, 2. Duplicate that page to create page x+1, 3. Make that page un-erasable, 4. Annotate that duplicate, 5. Go back to page x to let the student fix their work, 6. Return to page x+1 and erase the applicable annotations. Regarding inserting space, I will try to code that up when I can get some time. Thanks again, Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 5:17

I recommend Ziteboard, the online whiteboard for math tutors. There are many really useful features to help your math teaching session, for example the realtime synced graph plotter.enter image description here


Interim Answer:

The easiest way to do this is with any video conferencing program. The catch: You have to set up the camera so that it, in effect looks over your shoulder.

Write on a pad of paper, using a fine point marker.

White paper may be too reflective, and drown out the lettering. If this is the case buy a ream of coloured paper. All kinds of ready to print graph paper can be found online.

You also need some form of cloud account for photography, ideally with instant uploading from camera.

A head set mic will give you students better sound.

Methodology: Give your lecture/talk/sample problem as usual.

As you fill each page, snap a picture of it. This is shared to a public folder on icloud, or drop box. Later, tag each image with appropriate hashtags to make finding stuff later doable.

Note: Both FaceTime and Skype reverse the local image so that you see the same image you do in a mirror, but send an obverse (non-flipped) image to the other end.

Note: If working with more than one student, try google hangouts.

The camera support tends to get in the way. It has to be upside down from it's usual orientation. Tilting it down from a screen monitor results the the student seeing the page upside down. Card board hood on a monitor may allow placement. Or a flex lamp, or a cantelever spring lamp might be used. Zip ties are your friend.

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