[Blindmath] mathspeak

Łukasz Grabowski graboluk at gmail.com
Thu Jan 12 04:18:38 UTC 2017


I am a professional mathematician (with unimpaired vision). Recently I
became responsible for preparing lecture notes for mathematics courses
for a legally blind student (she is able to use magnification software
at very high zoom level, but it's not relevant).

I generally try to prepare notes in mathml, via conversion software
latexml. So far this has worked okayish, but not great, since the
lecturers haven't been using simple enough latex.

Also, probably partially because of my inexperience. I have trouble
setting up NVDA on the student's computer in a satisfactory fashion.

This led me to the idea of recording the lecture notes for the student.
I started to design a grammar for that purpuse and to practice reading
mathematics using it.

But then I discovered mathspeak. Since I generally like following
standards I thought I'd use mathspeak instead of my (quite similar)
grammar. However, I can't help feeling that idioms in my grammar seem
to sound more natural. For example 
Absolute Value 4  End Absolute Value + 3 
my grammar:
absolute value of 4 + 3 

Absolute Value 4 minus 7 End Absolute Value + 3 
my grammar:
absolute value  4 minus 7 end absolute value + 3

ModAbove x with caret
my grammar:
x hat

Root 2 End Root
my grammar:
root of 2

d equals Root left-parenthesis Upper X minus x right-parenthesis
squared minus left-parenthesis Upper Y minus y right-parenthesis
squared End Root
my grammar:
d equals root bracket cap X minus x end bracket squared minus bracket
cap Y minus y end bracket squared end root

So the main two differences are 1) having a short notation for when
there is only a single symbol inside root, absolute value, etc.,
because this happens very often., 2) using standard idioms such as x
hat, x tilde, x prime, x double prime, x check, etc.

So my expressions tend to be shorter and they seem to me to correspond
better to the way mathematicians speak. Also, in the standard at
I didn't see some important things, for example how would one
denote the set of real numbers in mathspeak (i.e. "blackboard R").

Hence I would like to ask: how popular is mathspeak among blind users
which study/use university-level mathematics? Is it an established
and popular standard?

Also, do you think that perhaps I am naive to think that such a
recording of lecture notes would be useful to learn mathematics, be it
using mathspeak or my own set of rules? To my untrained ears both
mathspeak and my grammar seem very complicated even for moderately long


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