[BlindMath] Typing Math and Science Quickly and Understandably

Rosanne Hoffmann rhoffmann at aph.org
Thu May 3 12:40:27 UTC 2018

Hi Bahvya,

I work in the vision impairment field and am a friend and colleague of Dr. Cary Supalo, mentioned in previous posts. Cary is a chemist and did teach at the university level for several years. Now he works as a consultant at the ETS (Educational Testing Service) in Princeton, New Jersey in the US. His efforts are and have always been to level the playing field for students with visual impairments pursuing STEM education. You can probably contact him via the website in a previous post: independencescience.com

Rosanne Hoffmann

Rosanne Hoffmann, Ph.D.
STEM Project Leader
American Printing House for the Blind
1839 Frankfort Ave.
Louisville, KY 40206
rhoffmann at aph.org

The mission of the American Printing House for the Blind is to promote the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired by providing specialized materials, products, and services needed for education and life.
-----Original Message-----
From: BlindMath [mailto:blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Bhavya shah via BlindMath
Sent: Wednesday, May 2, 2018 7:04 PM
To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics <blindmath at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Bhavya shah <bhavya.shah125 at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [BlindMath] Typing Math and Science Quickly and Understandably

Hi Sabra,

Thanks a lot for your detailed response.

First off, I must confess that I have no knowledge and no intent of procuring the same about Nemeth Braille or working with Math through Braille in any other form. I have always exclusively relied on my computer to fulfil my classroom, notetaking and examination needs and have never used Braille for any practical purpose so far. I don’t think it would be worthwhile to invest time in learning Math typing with Braille given that I have no headstart or inclination of any sort anyways.

“Also note that you can use parentheses and brackets.” – Could you explicate this suggestion with an example? I am not too sure I properly follow you here.

“The Pearce in equation editor can produce math in a visual format.” – Could Since a perfunctory Google search failed in yielding further information about the mentioned tool, could you please share any links or sites to learn more about Pearce? Also, just to clarify, typing Math such that it is visually readable is not one of my top priorities at the moment. I am keen more on being able to take mathematical and scientific notes rapidly, and in a way that I can directly understand what I have typed while referring to the same again at a later date.
With my present techniques, especially LaTeX with MathType, I tend to need to read a fairly simple equation multiple times and even part by part before it registers entirely in my head.

“Do not type on your phone as I am doing now because it is much slower.” – I have no intention to use a Touch Screen or software keyboard on a Smartphone or Tablet to for academic purposes, let alone mathematic and scientific notetaking. :)

“You can copy previous steps to your clipboard, paste them, and then modify them to create your future steps.” – I do this currently for the very use case you described, that of balancing chemical equations.
As you have recommended, I could probably broaden this practice to solving numerical problems too.

“Another thing you can do is request things in electronic format.” – I will be in a fairly good position in this regard, for I have a great rehabilitation institute in my city with which I have been long affiliated and of which I have been an erstwhile beneficiary, who have will make this aspect of my education easier for me. However, I am still thinking about the preferred format of my Math and Science material, because due to a variety of reasons, I wasn’t all that comfortable with Math ML present in MS Word created using MathType and then read by NVDA using Math Player. With reference to tackling graphs, charts and diagrams, again, it is likely that I might get some important but excessively visual diagrams converted into tactile graphics, so I am in a good position there too. I have heard about sonification of curves through software like Math Trax and Audio Graphing Calculator, and thanks for your added input about 3D exploding pie charts, but I think I will probably start exploring these when I reach syllabus dealing with graphs. I am a little overwhelmed with straightening out the basics before I plunge into the more specific solutions to deal with particular chapters and concepts.

For the most part, I will not be doing practicals in a big way, especially not as part of coaching for this engineering entrance examination, but if you can get the exact name of this blind chemist (I tried “sapalo blind chemist” in Google to no avail), even if just for trivia and to quench my curiosity, it would be quite fascinating to understand how this individual works.

Again, many thanks for your prompt but comprehensive set of suggested solutions.


On 5/2/18, Sabra Ewing <sabra1023 at gmail.com> wrote:
> I typed most of my math using the first method. You might be able to 
> type more quickly if you had a braille keyboard. Also note that you 
> can use parentheses and brackets. The Pearce in equation editor can 
> produce math in a visual format. It is free. The braille note touch 
> can do this as well although it is very expensive. I would definitely 
> say to use a keyboard. Do not type on your phone as I am doing now 
> because it is much slower. Another thing you can do is use copy and 
> paste. You do not have to type everything from scratch. You can copy 
> previous steps to your clipboard, paste them, and then modify them to 
> create your future steps. Like for example, you might write a chemical 
> equation that is not balanced. Paste this equation underneath it so 
> you have two copies of the same equation. Then, take the first step 
> toward balancing that equation and make those changes to your second 
> copy. Now you have your equation and underneath it, you have the 
> modified version with step one completed, so copied the version with 
> step one completed to your clipboard and paste it underneath. Now you 
> have the original equation, and you have two copies of step one. 
> Modified the second copy of step one based on what you plan to do in 
> step two. Continue this method until you have finished the problem. 
> With a braille keyboard, you should be able to type as fast as someone 
> can speak and even faster. If you cannot or a braille keyboard is not 
> an option, you can record what is being said with a phone or other 
> recording device and you can then go back over it. Another thing you 
> can do is request things in electronic format. Mini American 
> professors do not know how to create accessible math when it is really 
> very easy as you described. You do not have to know any markup 
> languages. You can create accessible math just by using your computer 
> keyboard, and in many cases, if you are a computer science student, 
> your math is in the perfect format to just paste right over into your 
> ide. Maybe Indian professors would be better at creating accessible. 
> If not, you might be able to find someone who can do it. This will be 
> especially easy if you can find some funding. I was not lucky in this 
> regard because other than professors, I never found a dedicated person 
> who knew how to produce accessible math. I finally got to a position 
> where I could no longer receive accessible math because I moved on to 
> a four-year university where the professors did not know how to 
> produce it. It is very ironic that when I started out at a two year 
> university, the professors did know how to produce it. I approach 
> programmers, professors, deans, and department head. No one actually 
> knew how including the programmers who produce accessible math every 
> day. I finally had to end up listening to my math on recordings and 
> writing everything down. It was very difficult. If you want to get 
> math in braille, there is software that can do it called Duxberry. 
> Ironically, my university actually had this software, but no one knew 
> how to use it including the people who worked at disability services. 
> Getting it for yourself will not be helpful. If you get this software, 
> you will need someone who can modify the equations for you. If your 
> professor has files that were generated from a markup language, you 
> could try asking for those source files. Even if you do not know the 
> markup language, math is written very similarly when you are 
> programming computers, so you could probably pick up how to read it. 
> Unfortunately, my professors used PDFs that they got from other 
> sources or pictures of hand written documents so I could not do this. 
> People will try to tell you that Matt cannot be produced excessively 
> on the computer. This simply is not true. Every mathematical formula, 
> function, and number known to humankind can be programmed into a 
> computer using a text based programming language. Also, many of these 
> functions and formulas can be put into XL. If you can put these 
> formulas into XL, then you can produce them accessibly in a word 
> document. If someone is trying to tell you that they can't, then just 
> tell them to put it in a spreadsheet, press
> F2 on the cells, and read the formulas that way. XL is very good 
> because you can use it to organize data, you can use it as a 
> calculator, and you can use it to create tables and graphs. You can 
> put these documents in your dropbox and you can get the pictures of 
> the graphs. You can then import these pictures into the voice app on 
> your phone and you can listen to them. If you are going to listen to 
> pie charts, to make it easier on yourself to read, use the 3-D 
> exploding pie charts. This may sound counterintuitive, but when you 
> listen to them, there is a bit more separation between each piece. I 
> don't know how you would get training to listen to grass. I just 
> automatically was born knowing how to do it. No one ever taught me. I could always listen to graphs very easily and I could never read tactile graphics.
> There is also a program called math tracks where you can create audio 
> graphs by entering in equations.However, it is really best to have 
> both the equation and the data because what if you created a graph 
> using any equation, and you need to make some changes to the data? 
> Well, you don't have the data, so what are you going to do? You could 
> probably generate the data from the equation in some cases, but that 
> will take forever. I like to listen to a graph and have the spreadsheet in front of me at the same time.
> There is also a blind chemist named Dr. sapalo. I'm not sure how to 
> spell his name. I have his card somewhere but I just have to find it. 
> I really wish people would start using those barcode Cards where I can 
> scan the contact information into my phone, but I only know one person 
> who uses those. Anyways, You may want to get in touch with him. He has 
> all of these probes. They do all different things. They connect to a 
> computer and they can measure chemical reactions and make graphs and 
> do all this stuff depending on what probe you use. For example, you 
> could use one probe to graph the color changes that occur during an 
> experiment. You could use another probe to track temperature changes 
> like ice melting. I don't really do chemistry, but if I did, I imagine 
> I would want this thing, but I can't remember what it is called. But 
> he is actually a chemistry professor at a university. He is totally 
> blind and he teaches classes and runs labs and does all sorts of 
> things. There are plenty of blind computer scientists, but he struck 
> my interest in particular because I have not heard of mini blind 
> chemists. He also had some good advice for 3-D printing that would 
> work in the United States, but I am not sure if it would work in 
> India. If possible though, you may want to get some 3-D models 
> printed. Another thing is that you want to stay consistent. You want 
> to make sure that you are doing things in the classroom the same way 
> you will do them during testing. In my chemistry class, I did not have 
> access to a lot of 3-D models, but for testing purposes, they made me 
> a 3-D model. This really was not fair because it was made out of a lot 
> of cups and straws. I did not know what it was, and it is not fair to 
> use models for testing purposes that you did not use in the classroom 
> or to use a different method for testing purposes that you did not use 
> in the classroom because this will skew the results. If you use certain accommodations in the classroom, insist on the same accommodations for testing.
> Sabra Ewing
>> On May 1, 2018, at 5:22 PM, Bhavya shah via BlindMath 
>> <blindmath at nfbnet.org> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I am Bhavya Shah, a totally blind 16-year-old student from Mumbai, 
>> India. Having just completed my tenth grade with the same Mathematics 
>> and Science syllabus as my sighted peers in a mainstream school, I 
>> intend to take up the Science stream according to the Indian 
>> education system for Classes 11 and 12 with the subject combination 
>> of
>> Physics+Chemistry+Mathematics, and probably take up something along
>> the lines of Computer Science for my undergraduate studies after that 
>> (although I shouldn’t overly worry about about finalizing that for 
>> now, I suppose). Additionally, I shall be enrolling into coaching for 
>> a very competitive pan-India engineering entrance examination over 
>> the next two years where I will be delving into particularly advanced 
>> topics in to the three afore-mentioned subjects.
>> Till Class 10, I managed an overwhelming chunk of Math either orally 
>> or mentally, and from what I have been informed, have dealt with 
>> relatively very simple organic structures, general numericals and 
>> chemical equations which I have been handling mostly via plain text.
>> It has become increasingly clear to me that this makeshift method 
>> will be extremely inefficient and consequently infeasible for the 
>> kind of syllabus I am transitioning to. Hence, I am looking for 
>> different techniques, tools or methods of typing Math and Science 
>> that will allow me to be as rapid a Math&Science typist as I am of 
>> the English language (at its peak, my fingers have achieved about 100 
>> WPM) so that I can cope with the daily rigor this coaching demands. I 
>> need to be able to type mathematical and scientific content 
>> accurately and swiftly not necessarily such that it is visually 
>> readable by a sighted professor but more so for my own reference, 
>> understanding and purposes of review and revision.
>> So far, I am versed only with two options – ASCII Math, where I would 
>> just type Math and Science using standard symbols present on any 
>> keyboard such as /, *, ^ and so on to denote different things 
>> (perhaps
>> (x+2)/x-1)) in chiefly plain text, or type things in LaTeX using 
>> MathType ($\frac{x+2}{x-1}$) and employ Math Player and NVDA to read 
>> it. From my basic understanding of this and limited past experience 
>> with each of these methods, the former sounds much faster and more 
>> efficient to me, but I am open to evidence and experiences suggesting 
>> otherwise. There are various other Math typing tools I have heard 
>> about over the years such as Infty Reader and Lean Math, but have 
>> never adequately researched them let alone used them to any extent.
>> Any information or instructional material on these and other 
>> potential alternatives you would recommend would be of great help too.
>> I would truly appreciate any assistance on different strategies you 
>> may have used to math your sighted counterparts’ speed in terms of 
>> writing and solving mathematical and scientific material, questions 
>> and problem sets.
>> Thanks.
>> --
>> Best Regards
>> Bhavya Shah
>> Blogger at Hiking Across Horizons: 
>> https://bhavyashah125.wordpress.com/
>> Contacting Me
>> E-mail Address: bhavya.shah125 at gmail.com
>> LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bhavyashah125/
>> Twitter: @BhavyaShah125
>> Skype: bhavya.09
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Best Regards
Bhavya Shah

Blogger at Hiking Across Horizons: https://bhavyashah125.wordpress.com/

Contacting Me
E-mail Address: bhavya.shah125 at gmail.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bhavyashah125/
Twitter: @BhavyaShah125
Skype: bhavya.09

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