[Blindmath] using Braille for math

Bill Dengler codeofdusk at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 15:23:15 UTC 2016

I use NVDA on Windows and VoiceOver on the Mac.
Are you suggesting that I read LaTeX source in Braille, or convert it to a Braille math code (like Nemeth or UEB) first?
When would refreshable Braille be useful, and when would hardcopy Braille be useful?
Also, I’m interested in Computer Science and plan to be a CS major. Thanks for the tip about the listings package for pretty-printing source code!

> On Aug 30, 2016, at 2:21 PM, derek riemer via Blindmath <blindmath at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> One thing I must say is if you plan to do math above calc level professionally, you'll benefit greatly by learning braille. One thing you can do is use a braille display to read either la tex, or nemeth. Since it's a braille display, you'll have speech from your screen reader (Is it jaws, or NVDA)?
> Also, if it's things with matrices,, hard copy braille will help you a lot, because having it in two dimensions really aids understanding.
> 2. I never needed something like the braille window. I used notepad++ to duplicate lines (Ctrl+d, down arrow), and then edited the line I just created). This breaks down for complex math like linear algebra, where I ended up using a brailler with paper, and then later dictating it to a sighted assistant (In college, that's a reasonable accommodation, don't let your school tell you no to that). However, that could be useful, I'm not sure. I've never tried it. For matrices, it might actually aid your speed of manipulating the matrix since you can move numbers around.
> Another thing to look into is having your problems provided to you in mathml.In college, I actually had my ds office convert calc to hard copy braille, because the overhead of switching from mathml to another wiindow for editing and back was higher than moving my hand to the left of my computer to read the math.
> Another option, is to use nemetex, although you're in calc now, and once you get above calc level, nemetex will struggle to convert your math to la tex (It was primarily designed for calc and below). It's a good tool to keep in mind though, because sometimes, doing a problem in braille and then having it convert to la tex automatically saves you lots of time since la tex is way verbose. (In statistics, I did all my homework in la tex, although I often either converted some of the math from nemeth with nemetex, replacing mu with x or l, and then doing a find/replace, and then pasting the la tex into my source. Also, Nicole is great with support on Nemetex, just send an email to the support line, and she is great about helping out with explaining how to do things.
> If you want my preamble of macros I defined to make life easier for some tasks (Like beginning a matrix, or Enumerations nested n levels deep, you can download it at the link in this email. For example, to begin a problem, just type \bEnum, and to begin the letters part, type \bAlpha and end them with \eAlpha
> There's also \beCapAlpha to do capital letters, and \bmx and \emx for begin and end matrix. To get around a visual bug with the beginning of letters directly after a number, do this.
> \bEnum
> \fItem
> \bAlpha
> \item %a
> \item bla bla bla %b
> \item bla bla bla %c
> \eAlpha
> \item %2
> \bCapAlpha
> \item bla bla bla %A
> \item Bla bla bla %B
> \eCapAlpha %Any end would actually work here, the b* commands actually just tell la tex to begin an enumeration with the appropriate lettering symbol (That syntax is taxing to write all the time).
> Feel free to remove listings from my preamble (I have it there, because I'm a cs student, and I used the listings package for code listings all the time. Without it, writing code becomes harder).
> my latex template: https://files.derekriemer.com/latex_template.zip
> On 8/30/2016 7:53 AM, Bill Dengler via Blindmath wrote:
>> Hello,
>> I'm currently in 11th grade, taking Calculus this year.
>> At the moment, I use a screen reader and a text editor to work out math problems. Before, I wrote my problems in an improvised "calculator notation", where each line was written in a similar format to how it would appear on a scientific calculator (+ for addition, / for division, ^ for exponentiation, sqrt for square root, etc). This notation worked, but had several issues: it was ambiguous at times and hard to read for my sighted teachers.
>> As of last semester, I've been writing all of my math in LaTeX. This solves the ambiguity issues with calculator notation, and can easily be compiled to PDF for viewing by the sighted.
>> However, things like
>> $\lim_{h \to 0} \frac{(-\frac{1}{2}+h)^3-(-\frac{1}{2})^3}{h}$
>> can be difficult to keep track of in speech; I often have to pull complex fractions apart, bringing certain parts onto their own lines, simplifying and combining everything back into the complex fraction at the end. It's horribly inefficient and error-prone.
>> My Braille reading speed is fairly slow (around 55WPM), and the only experience I've had with Braille math was in elementary school, using a device called the Math Window <http://mathwindow.com>. That was, in short, a disaster; I was consistently lagging far behind my classmates when doing simple two and three digit addition and multiplication problems because of the time it took to interpret the Braille and manipulate the Math Window's tiles. I haven't used Braille for math since, using only a computer with a plain-text editor to do Algebra, Geometry, and Pre-Calculus. I have, however, used raised-line diagrams and three-dimensional models for Geometry and trigonometry.
>> Questions:
>> Would the use of refreshable Braille, hardcopy Braille and/or a device like the Math Window while doing math help me to conceptualize problems more easily, particularly where advanced and/or heavy Algebra is involved?
>> If so, would it be most effective for me to use it in addition to, or as a replacement for, speech? The biggest problem with using Braille is that my teachers don't read it, so I'd have to frequently transcribe back-and-forth from Braille to LaTeX. This would be relatively painless for refreshable Braille, but less so for the hardcopy variety.
>> If I used Braille for math, which math code (UEB or Nemeth) should I learn and use? From what I've heard, Nemeth generally takes up less space to convey the same content (important for refreshable displays with limited real estate), but UEB's presentation of that content is clearer. Also, Nemeth could be replaced by the UEB math code in a few years since it's the international standard now.
>> Thanks,
>> Bill
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> -- 
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>   Derek Riemer
> * Department of computer science, third year undergraduate student.
> * Proud user of the NVDA screen reader.
> * Open source enthusiast.
> * Member of Bridge Cu
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