Photo of a hand holding a smartphone displaying the Desmos graphing calculator app.

Test-approved Graphing Calculator App

Moveover expensive graphing calculators - there's a new app in town!

The next generation of graphing calculator – the Desmos app – is available at no cost! This app, which is accessible for users who are blind and visually impaired, is backed by Pearson and is supported by the College Board (SAT exams).  Smarter Balance consortium has embedded Desmos into their assessments.

The video below demonstrates VoiceOver typing and reading an equation and using Audio Trace to explore and read aloud the created graph.  The video includes the VoiceOver commands used to navigate the graph and the information gleaned from the sonification (audio features).

Desmos recommends using Firefox with at least JAWS 17, Window-Eyes 9.5 or NVDA 2016.2.  On the Mac, Desmos recommends using VoiceOver with Safari or Chrome on macOS 10.11 or higher. Preliminary tests using Microsoft Edge with Narrator in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update are encouraging but not yet officially supported.  Audio tracing is not yet available with Internet Explorer.

The accessibility page on the Desmos website includes information on and commands for the following topics:

The intro video below includes information about Desmos and the free Desmos classroom math activities.



Desmos website

Desmos in the App Store


Teachers of the Visually Impaired

The way we teach math is changing as new technology and software becomes available.  Several groups are actively working on cost-effective full page braille displays that will be able to instantly display tactile charts and graphs.  The accessible Desmos graphing app is now accepted in the classroom and used in high stakes testing.

What math tools are you teaching your students? Tools, such as talking graphing calculators, are beneficial for students with visual impairments to complete math assignments.   Graphing tools include sonification – use of non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualize data.  Sonification is not new – we have been using talking scientific graphing calculators for a very long time!  A  new digital resource with sonification, the SAS Graphics Accelerator, enables students and teachers to create their own graphs and charts that include sonification.  

Traditionally, K-12 braille students have received math materials in paper braille format; in higher education, only a minority of students receive math materials in paper braille format.  Higher education math is often the most challenging subject for many students who are braille readers.  Learning to use digital tools, such as sonification, in high school will help students with college level math and in STEM related fields.  

Learning foundation math concepts requires braille – in a paper braille format supplemented with tactile models.  Use all the tools available when teaching math!  Mainstream classroom teachers incorporate simple and complex math tools, including tactile counting blocks in kindergarten to teach basic counting and addition concepts, 3D models of cubes, spheres and other shapes, and scientific graphing calculators.  Teachers of the Visually Impaired use an even broader variety of math tools.  Learning to use sonification to glean information from graphics is another tool in the toolbox.  Sonification is being integrated into more mainstream math resources, especially on the college and career levels.  How are you – Teachers of the Visually Impaired – preparing your students to access higher level math?  Are your students taking advantage of the Desmos app in high stakes testing and when completing daily math assignments?  Let’s  share our teaching strategies and brainstorm ideas!

* As TVIs, our task is not to teach the entire math class – but rather to teach the specialized skills that are unique to a student with a visual impairment.  Teaching how to glean information from reading a tactile graph and teaching how to listen to a graph with sonification.

Please take a minute and share in the comment section below the math tools and strategies that you are using!


Collage of Graphing Calculator App

By Diane Brauner

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