As a student with low vision, I have trouble following along when taking math classes in the traditional classroom. There’s a lot of visual information on the board that I have to copy down quickly, and in high school I struggled a lot with taking accurate notes or understanding concepts. I started supplementing my math lessons and weekly tutoring with free math websites that go over various concepts in depth and feature text-based step-by-step tutorials, and saw a noticeable improvement in my grades once I was able to slow down and take additional time to understand topics. Here are my favorite free math websites for low vision students that can be used inside or outside of the classroom.
Desmos Calculator is a popular free mainstream calculator application with extensive accessibility support for screen reader users, screen magnification, high contrast displays, and many other popular low vision and nonvisual assistive technology features. Unlike other accessible calculator applications, Desmos does not require any downloads and can be accessed from any internet connected device via the Desmos website, though Desmos applications are available for download on Android and iOS devices as well. I prefer to use the Desmos calculator application on my computer or in my tablet’s web browser while working on online math assignments.
I can’t talk about free math websites without mentioning Khan Academy. Khan Academy offers resources for math in grades 6-12, though I find myself using the website frequently for concepts covered in my college math classes. There are also categories for science, engineering, computing, humanities, economics, test prep, and even college resources. The website is filled with captioned videos that are easy to follow, along with written explanations and practice problems. The videos are easy to listen to and take notes on, and I usually stream them to my Chromecast while I work on the computer, or follow along with a transcript.
Khan Academy pairs well with assistive technology such as screen readers and screen magnification, and I complete the practice problems on my tablet so I can adjust the viewing angle more easily.
One of my professors recommended PurpleMath for studying for the math placement test, as it has a ton of resources for high school and college algebra and pre-algebra classes. PurpleMath primarily uses text-based tutorials with some videos, and looks great with a simplified reading display like Immersive Reader for enlarging text. Another feature of PurpleMath is that it has study guides for various standardized tests and exams like the SAT, ACT, and CLEP, as well as state-specific resources, though I have not used these myself.
Almost every middle school student (or former student) can tell you about how awesome Cool Math Games is, but I’m personally a huge fan of Cool Math itself. The original Cool Math website is filled with so many great explanations of math concepts related to pre-algebra, algebra, and pre-calculus/trigonometry. The website has a high-contrast theme and large, bold text that is easy to navigate with a screen reader or other assistive technologies. Images and graphs can be enlarged by opening the images in a new tab, though some may seem blurry when magnified. Cool Math has a high-contrast dark display by default, though text can also be copy/pasted into Microsoft Word or a similar program for further reading.
Kate’s Math Lessons is another free website that covers Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry, and explains concepts through videos, text, and practice problems. I use the website with large print and it worked well for studying for a community college math placement test.
Wolfram Alpha is like a cross between an encyclopedia, a calculator, and a search engine. While it can be used for several different things, I like using it for math, and it is available for math at all levels, from middle school all the way to college. I can enter math problems and see how they are solved, and have the answer displayed on a graph as well. Answers can be read and copied in plain text, which is helpful for screen reader users, and the answers can also be downloaded. The pro function is available for $5 a month and acts as a virtual tutor, going over problems step by step. While this website can’t be used as a substitute for a calculator, it’s great for understanding how math concepts work.
Microsoft Math Solver is a newer tool compared to a lot of the items on this list, and provides step-by-step solutions to math problems in the mobile application and on its website. Again, this is not a substitute for a calculator, but I find it helpful to see all of the steps for a math problem so that I can make sure I don’t miss any steps when solving it myself. Another helpful feature of Microsoft Math Solver is that it is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Hindi, German, and others.
Quizlet allows users to create their own digital flashcards and study guides, or search for other study resources by topic. Since traditional digital flashcard studying doesn’t work well with math, I will set up a free response quiz with the Learn tool and work out math problems on a digital or physical whiteboard, or in another application. Quizlet displays really well with large print and has been an amazing resource for a lot of my college classes.
By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com
Updated August 2023; original post published February 2018
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