At Learn By Hand, we set out to create a web-based tool that would allow visually impaired students to independently practice algebra skills. Our first step was to scout existing technology, and frankly, we were disappointed with what we found. Braille-based solutions seemed inefficient while math-to-speech technology resulted in incomprehensible and ambiguous output with limited interactivity. To make a system that was actually usable, we found we needed to develop an entirely new technology that was easy to learn and did not require additional hardware or software installation.
We have now accomplished exactly that with Algebra By Hand™. Algebra By Hand (ABH) is a web-based application that comes equipped with an interactive equation describer. Students with no vision may press the arrow keys on a standard keyboard to navigate through any mathematical expression. Each key only releases a bite-sized chunk of audio about one part of the overall expression. The student is free to explore an equation in any order that makes sense to them. They can also use the keyboard to manipulate an expression or equation using common algebraic operations. It works entirely within a standard browser and requires no plug-ins. Listen to the following audio clip to get a sense of how the user interacts with a problem. ABH Information Video Transcript here.
For students with some vision, we also provide a high-contrast drag and drop interface that works with touch and mouse-driven devices. You can see the same problem solved with this low-vision interface here. Low Vision Interface Transcript here.
Educators will love that ABH integrates with Google Classroom and Canvas learning management systems. Even better, it allows teachers to monitor the progress of their students in real time and reports an algebra skill inventory for each student. Check out our video for algebra teachers.
(Editor’s Note: This video is not audio described. Blind InterfaceTranscript available here.)
Currently, an annual teacher’s subscription to ABH costs $75, however, we are offering Perkins readers a FREE one-year subscription in appreciation of the amazing work that you do! Simply give yourself a free account here and contact Michael Eiseman ([email protected]) or (267)-606-6360 to request removal of the pay wall and a free training session to get you started. Please note that we have not yet provided support for teachers with visual impairment – only students.
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By Michael Eiseman