[Blindmath] Math Conversion Software - was Dr. Nemeth

Steve Jacobson steve.jacobson at visi.com
Thu Oct 3 17:59:01 UTC 2013


mike,

If you are targeting children in the United States, I believe that using Nemeth Code as the target makes sense.  I mentioned the 
existence of other codes because we have a worldwide audience on this list and I wanted to acknowledge that.  I do not know, 
though, which is the most common format used by teachers to generate lessons.  This might be worth some investigation.

I would also be interested in understanding better the "problem-solving" aspects of what you are proposing.  My understanding was 
that you were primarily interested in developing a process to translate from a source to Nemeth Code and to translate from Nemeth 
Code to a format that can be printed.  If there are steps in the solution of an equasion, wouldn't you depend upon the instructor 
to write the steps thereby making the job of your software to translate?  If you plan on making your software more than a 
translation tool by including equasion solving capability, that adds to the complexities.  

Finally, writing the code in C might well be a good idea.  Please note, though, that there are two approaches that can make Java 
work with screen readers.  Both approaches require that certain JAVA libraries be used, and my understanding is that using 
specific libraries can make using certain other JAVA libraries that might be needed a bit more difficult.  Among others, Dr. 
Baldwin, who is on this list, has some experience with this in his SVGDraw program, as does John Boyer on the Braille Blaster 
project.  John's project is also doing some with Nemeth, and there may be some connections with Braille Blaster and what you are 
proposing that you might want to explore with him.  There is also a program to convert Latex to Nemeth as well.   

Good luck.

Best regards,

Steve Jacobson

On Thu, 3 Oct 2013 12:03:01 -0500, Mike Jolls wrote:

>Steve

> 

>Thank you for such a positive and thoughtful response.  It's non-argumentative and objective replies like yours that I welcome.

> 

>I don't mind at all that you changed the name.  I had that in the back of my mind, so this title really reflects what the topic 
is about.

> 

>In my software, I'm really just getting off the ground ... trying to write software that will take math expressions, and solve 
them.  Even this process is not trivial.  Luckily I'm a professional developer and I've had some advanced training plus the math 
background.  That helps, but to get a program that will do what I say .. to take a problem, parse it, solve it line by line, step 
by step so that the solutions can be presented to the student is not a trivial task.  But then .. after my project that I alluded 
to in a previous post ... I knew that something like this would be a lot of work on me.  No surprises, and at least I was aware of 
the complexity of what I was biting off.

> 

> You mention that BANA has formally adopted Nemeth as it's presentation within UEB.  That's good to know.  I don't currently know 
Nemeth code .. it's on my to-do list.  Heck (grin) I only learned literary braille about 5 years ago and I'm still trying to get 
my reading rate up to what I consider an acceptable level.  That's a whole different topic right there.  So to carry this project 
out to it's logical conclusion, I'll have to investigate Nemeth, or confer with someone who already knows it.  But the plan was to 
take each intermediate step that the program outputs and convert it to Nemeth so the student can see each line as it's solved so 
they can see each step in how you get from the original problem statement to the final answer.

> 

>You touched on the possibility that others would want to use other presentation formats such as LaTex.  I totally get that ... 
that Nemeth is not the only method of presenting the output that this "math solver" would spit out.  That's why I also alluded to 
an "intermediate language".  I don't know if I even want to take that on in the beginning, but if the equation solver had an 
intermediate language that it output ... then in theory anybody could read that intermediate syntax and convert it to the output 
method of their choice.  That will have to be done if multiple target platforms are going to be supported.  Yes, I've thought 
about that, but for right now I have my hands full just working on the problem solver software.  Incidentally, I'm writing it in 
Java, but I see the need to also do it in C++ so it could run on native Windows PC's.  Writing it in Java, you might be able to 
run it in a Browser.

> 

>I'll leave my response to that and wait for comments.  But as I say, I'm just trying the software to recognize and solve the 
problem.  That's a big task in and of itself.

> 

>Mike

> 

>> From: steve.jacobson at visi.com
>> To: blindmath at nfbnet.org
>> Date: Thu, 3 Oct 2013 10:51:13 -0500
>> Subject: [Blindmath] Math Conversion Software - was Dr. Nemeth
>> 
>> Mike,
>> 
>> I took the liberty of changing the subject since this could be an on-going discussion. The Braille Authority of North America 
>> (BANA) has considered the Nemeth Code to be the standard braille code for mathematics for some time, and the recent adoption by 
>> BANA of Unified English Braille has preserved the use of Nemeth Code for mathematics. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume 
>> that Nemeth Code will be a standard approach to the education of children in the United States for the foreseeable future. 
There 
>> are several other mathematical codes used globally, though, and as you know, there are other variations used for higher math. 
>> 
>> You are certainly correct that among those who have pursued math beyond high school, there have been multiple approaches taken, 
>> and that the LATEX approach might be more than kids should have to take on. Still, it would be nice if we could come up with a 
>> solution for kids that would bring together existing conversions where possible. I know there has already been some work to go 
>> from LATEX to Nemeth, for example and there has been other work that goes from other formats to LATEX. There has been work to 
>> convert math contained in Word documents as well, and there are people on this list who are involved some in all of these 
efforts 
>> and others I have not specifically described. 
>> 
>> While there have been partial solutions, the problem seems to generally turn out to be more complex than it seems it should be 
on 
>> the surface. That doesn't mean it can't be solved, but it needs to be examined closely. One consideration is that the problem 
of 
>> translating into Nemeth Code is somewhat different than backtranslating into another format. Besides the fact that there may be 
>> some ambiguities in the code, those who use Nemeth Code for reading don't have the level of understanding that one who 
transcribes 
>> the code has. I think there needs to be a way for a blind child, particularly an older one, to have some means of knowing that 
>> what he or she wrote in Nemeth Code is resulting in a print copy that represents what was intended. You also have to consider 
>> that to my knowledge there really is no standard that covers what mainstream teachers use. Word is probably fairly commonly 
used 
>> in schools, but I would hesitate to assume how widely it is used. In addition, we increasingly are needing to find ways of 
>> dealing with mathematical expressions in electronic texts resulting from manual scans and those prepared by publishers. This is 
>> probably separate from the issue you are trying to confront but it could play a role.
>> 
>> The high-level statement of the problems faced by blind children in your note is very much on target. It would be good, though, 
>> for us to get an idea of what approaches you may have already looked at to develop your software and perhaps to hear from 
others 
>> here who have worked some with various conversion processes. Interestingly, Apple says that there is some support for Nemeth 
Code 
>> in IOS7, but from people I have talked to about that, it isn't really clear what it means. For example, even if one can enter 
>> Nemeth Code on a device and have it spoken correctly, it is of limited value if there is nothing that can be done with it 
except 
>> to display or emboss it in braille.
>> 
>> To me, this is a very interesting and important topic, and I would like to hear comments from others who have had more specific 
>> experience in these areas than have I.
>> 
>> Best regards,
>> 
>> Steve Jacobson
>> 
>> On Wed, 2 Oct 2013 18:33:00 -0500, Mike Jolls wrote:
>> 
>> >Dear Ms. Osterhauss
>> > 
>> >I just wanted to say that I've seen you many times on the Web talking about many aspects of math education, computer 
technology, 
>> demonstrating various things. I think it's great that you're out there putting the videos up on YouTube. I wanted to start out 
>> by saying that I your presence gives good information to people so they know that the tools are out there. Keep it up.
>> > 
>> >You may have seen some posts that I have been writing about working on Math software. I've heard young people in our area (I'm 
>> in Nebraska) who tell me that when they were in school, they fared terribly in math. They didn't have math books that they were 
>> allowed to take home, or they got their books late and were behind ... well there are a number of reasons that they didn't do 
well 
>> in math. When I heard some of the problems as blind students that they had, it just got under my skin. I thought .. "there has 
>> to be a way that blind students can get the material they need .. somehow that the teacher can interact with them despite the 
fact 
>> that school districts are cutting Braille instructors that would have helped the students in the past because of budgets." That 
>> led me to think of writing software to allow the teacher to enter the math lessons in Word, for example, and have a program 
>> translate it to Braille format, say Nemeth. Then the student uses the program I develop to work the problems in Nemeth. The 
>> program could even solve the problem step by step if the student needed help. When the student figures out the answer, he or 
she 
>> writes the solution in Nemeth and saves it, then gives the solution file back to the teacher. The teacher opens it and the copy 
>> of the software the teacher has translates it back to Word, or whatever the preferred format is.
>> > 
>> >You get the idea. Software that allows the teacher directly interact with the student without the teacher having to know 
>> Braille. If school districts are going to cut Braille teachers from the budgets, then in my mind something has to be done so 
that 
>> the student can continue to communicate with the teacher who doesn't know Braille.
>> > 
>> >Now with that background, here's a question for you. I'm sure there are a lot of people thinking the same thing I'm thinking 
of. 
>> Some are using LaTex, some are using other forms of Braille besides Nemeth. In other words, many people, many solutions. The 
>> problem with that is that you'd (as an end user consumer) have to learn a lot of different systems. Really in my mind, there 
>> should be a national standard that a governing board such as BANA sets forth the standard saying ... "you will present material 
in 
>> ABC format". I'm saying "ABC" in the sense that I'm not saying Nemeth, or UEBC, or Computer Braille, but just saying there 
SHOULD 
>> be a standard format, one that is proven to work that is also easily learned by students. And that's why I'm writing to you.
>> > 
>> >Can you tell me, is there such a board that can set the standard that computer software should code to? In case you haven't 
>> figured this out, I'm a software engineer interested in math, and interested in helping blind kids since I myself am low vision 
>> and understand the plight of kids sitting in class when they can't see what's going on. And, if BANA is that board, have they 
>> already set the standard? I heard that Nemeth was chosen as the standard for NLS publications. Has any organization 
investigated 
>> what format of presentation software should render it's text in for Braille?
>> > 
>> >Also, from your experience as a teacher, is there a format that kids learn more easily than others, and which is easier to 
use?
>> > 
>> >I'm hoping the answers are "yes there is, and the determination of which system to use has been made" ... because then I'd 
know 
>> the work that I wanted to do would be in a format that was acceptable and I'd know what I had to do when writing any 
translation 
>> software. Without the standard, I'd just be picking something and it might not be something kids could use, or it might not be 
>> the convention that kids do best with.
>> > 
>> >I think that's enough. Hopefully you get the gist of what I'm trying to accomplish. I think such a program that would allow 
the 
>> student to work independently in Math would really be beneficial, especially if access to Braille teachers are getting choked. 
>> But the standard accepted formats to use must be defined.
>> > 
>> >Hope you can help. I welcome questions or comments if you have them
>> > 
>> >Mike Jolls
>> >Omaha, NE.
>> > 
>> >> From: osterhauss at tsbvi.edu
>> >> Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2013 16:50:38 -0500
>> >> To: blindmath at nfbnet.org
>> >> Subject: Re: [Blindmath] Dr. Nemeth
>> >> 
>> >> Yes, I feel so blessed to have known him. I will miss him terribly.
>> >> Susan O
>> >> 
>> >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> From: Blindmath [mailto:blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Gaylen
>> >> Kapperman
>> >> Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 4:35 PM
>> >> To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics
>> >> Subject: Re: [Blindmath] Dr. Nemeth
>> >> 
>> >> caryn, very good! a fitting tribute to our hero!
>> >> Gaylen Kapperman
>> >> Northern Illinois University
>> >> 
>> >> 
>> >> At 04:00 PM 10/2/2013, you wrote:
>> >> >I too was very sad to hear the news about Dr. Nemeth. I think it's fair
>> >> >to say that the existence of this list is in part an ongoing legacy for
>> >> >his work.
>> >> >
>> >> >I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to enjoy many
>> >> >conversations with Dr. Nemeth, mostly in the 1980s and 1990s. His input
>> >> >was very important in the development of math-related software at
>> >> >Raised Dot Computing in those years. Even the most challenging tech
>> >> >support calls from Dr. Nemeth were filled with the pleasure of his
>> >> >special humor.
>> >> >
>> >> >One of these conversations was a 1991 interview in the Raised Dot
>> >> >Computing Newsletter. A shorter version of this interview, reprinted in
>> >> >Future Reflections, is in today's NFB press release. Here's a link to
>> >> >the full 1991 interview:
>> >> >
>> >> >http://www.duxburysystems.com/abe1991.htm
>> >> >
>> >> >
>> >> >Respectfully,
>> >> >Caryn
>> >> >
>> >> >From: Justin Young
>> >> >Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 4:09 PM
>> >> >To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics
>> >> >Subject: Re: [Blindmath] Dr. Nemeth
>> >> >
>> >> >Yes this pioneer in the Blind Awareness community has passed and will
>> >> >surely be missed be greatly missed. I unfortunately didn't have the
>> >> >honor of knowing him, but I sure wish I had the honor to meet him!
>> >> >
>> >> >Justin
>> >> >
>> >> >On 10/2/13, Sina Bahram <sbahram at nc.rr.com> wrote:
>> >> > > I was quite sad to hear this news. Dr. Nemeth was a really wonderful
>> >> > > man to talk to. I'm so happy we had him over to the university when
>> >> > > I was an undergrad. We even threw him a birthday party after one of
>> >> > > his hilarious
>> >> > > and> inspiring talks, which is one of my more fond memories of
>> >> > interacting with
>> >> > > him.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > The provost, various department heads, and so forth were waiting in
>> >> > > a line to meet him, but he kept enjoying his slice of cake,
>> >> > > explicitly ignoring them, and telling me story after story about
>> >> > > teaching automata theory, particular challenges in teaching
>> >> > > differential equations to sighted students, etc. He knew how to make
>> >> you feel special.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > I had no idea he knew anything about computer science. I just
>> >> > > thought he was the math guy that allowed me to participate in
>> >> > > science and math because of his Braille code. So it was just such a
>> >> > > pleasure to geek out with him over cake.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > I was on a conference call with him a few months ago, and he was
>> >> > > still as sharp and brilliant as ever.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > R.I.P. Dr. Nemeth, and thank you for everything, sir. You'll be
>> >> missed.
>> >> > >
>> >> > > Take care,
>> >> > > Sina
>> >> > >
>> >> > > Twitter: @SinaBahram
>> >> > > Website: http://www.SinaBahram.com
>> >> > > Blog: http://blog.SinaBahram.com
>> >> > >
>> >> > >
>> >> > > -----Original Message-----
>> >> > > From: Blindmath [mailto:blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of
>> >> > > Sean Tikkun
>> >> > > Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 2:51 PM
>> >> > > To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics
>> >> > > Subject: Re: [Blindmath] Dr. Nemeth
>> >> > >
>> >> > > I share your sentiment Maureen. I was talking with someone last
>> >> > > Friday about my desire to talk with him before he left us. That
>> >> > > same person was going to try and connect us this week. A sad day
>> >> > > for many of us, but his gifts will not soon pass!
>> >> > >
>> >> > > Sean Tikkun
>> >> > > Instructor
>> >> > > Northern Illinois University
>> >> > >
>> >> > > srtikkun at niu.com
>> >> > >
>> >> > >
>> >> > >
>> >> > >
>> >> > > On Oct 2, 2013, at 1:47 PM, "Lewicki, Maureen"
>> >> > > <mlewicki at bcsd.neric.org>
>> >> > > wrote:
>> >> > >
>> >> > >> There is a small handful of people who I can say I would have
>> >> > >> wanted to
>> >> > > meet, if someone told me I could meet anyone in the world. Dr.
>> >> > > Nemith was one of them. In fact he may be the only one. My gratitude
>> >> > > to him, for the sake of my students is endless, and I tell everyone
>> >> > > of them about what he did for the blind.
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> Maureen Murphy Lewicki
>> >> > >> Maureen Murphy Lewicki
>> >> > >> Teacher of Visually Impaired
>> >> > >> Bethlehem Central School
>> >> > >> 332 Kenwood AvenueDelmar, NY 12054
>> >> > >> http://bethlehemschools.org
>> >> > >> (518) 439-7460
>> >> > >> Fax (518) 475-0092
>> >> > >> "The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The
>> >> > >> real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of education that
>> >> > >> exists. If a blind person has the proper training and opportunity,
>> >> > >> blindness can be reduced to a mere physical nuisance."Kenneth
>> >> > >> Jernigan
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> -----Original Message-----
>> >> > >> From: Blindmath [mailto:blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of
>> >> > >> Steve
>> >> > > Jacobson
>> >> > >> Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 2:37 PM
>> >> > >> To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics
>> >> > >> Subject: [Blindmath] Dr. Nemeth
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> Some of you may already be aware of this, but I thought it was
>> >> > >> appropriate
>> >> > > on this list to mourn the very recent passing of Dr.
>> >> > >> Abraham Nemeth. I understand he was 94. I, like others on this
>> >> > >> list, was
>> >> > > honored to have known him fairly well, and I feel that he played a
>> >> > > very significant role, through the Nemeth Code, in my majoring in
>> >> > > math and my subsequent careerin information technologies. Here is
>> >> > > the press rease issued by our national office:
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
>> >> > >> Release Date: Wednesday, October 2, 2013
>> >> > >> Category: National
>> >> > >> Chris Danielsen
>> >> > >> Director of Public Relations
>> >> > >> National Federation of the Blind
>> >> > >> (410) 659-9314, extension 2330
>> >> > >> (410) 262-1281 (Cell)
>> >> > >> cdanielsen at nfb.org
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> National Federation of the Blind Mourns Passing of Dr. Abraham
>> >> > >> Nemeth
>> >> > > Honors His Pioneering Work to Enhance Braille Baltimore, Maryland
>> >> > > (October 2, 2013):
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> The National Federation of the Blind today mourns the death of Dr.
>> >> > >> Abraham
>> >> > > Nemeth, the scientist who invented the Nemeth Braille Code for
>> >> > > Mathematics and Scientific Notation and was a lifelong champion of
>> >> Braille.
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind,
>> >> said:
>> >> > > Dr. Nemeth had a great mind and a wonderful sense of humor. His
>> >> > > invention of the Braille code that bears his name has enabled many
>> >> > > blind people to learn, work, and excel in scientific, technology,
>> >> > > engineering, and mathematics, and his tireless Braille advocacy work
>> >> > > undoubtedly changed countless lives.
>> >> > >> He will be sorely missed and his contributions will be valued by
>> >> > > generations to come.
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> For more information about Dr. Nemeth and his groundbreaking
>> >> > >> Braille code,
>> >> > > please read The History of the Braille Code: An Interview with Dr.
>> >> > > Abraham Nemeth, from the Future Reflections 2009 Special Issue: A
>> >> > > Celebration of Braille.
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >>
>> >> > >> _______________________________________________
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>> >> > >
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>> >> > .neric
>> >> > > .org
>> >> > >>
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