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AI tutors are quietly changing how kids in the US study, and the leading apps are from China

Rita Liao


May 25, 2024

Evan, a high school sophomore from Houston, was stuck on a calculus problem. He pulled up Answer AI on his iPhone, snapped a photo of the problem from his Advanced Placement math textbook, and ran it through the homework app. Within a few seconds, Answer AI had generated an answer alongside a step-by-step process of solving the problem.

A year ago, Evan would be scouring through long YouTube videos in hopes of tackling his homework challenges. He also had a private tutor, who cost $60 per hour. Now, the arrival of AI bots is posing a threat to long-established tutoring franchises such as Kumon, the 66-year-old Japanese giant that has 1,500 locations and nearly 290,000 students across the U.S.

“The tutor’s hourly cost is about the same as Answer AI’s whole year of subscription,” Evan told me. “So I stopped doing a lot of [in-person] tutoring.”

Answer AI is among a handful of popular apps that are leveraging the advent of ChatGPT and other large language models to help students with everything from writing history papers to solving physics problems. Of the top 20 education apps in the U.S. App Store, five are AI agents that help students with their school assignments, including Answer AI, according to data from Data.ai on May 21.