Teaching mathematics and science to blind and low vision students is particularly difficult when there are visual requirements. MathTrax is a graphing tool for middle school and high school students to graph equations, physics simulations or plot data files. The graphs have descriptions and sound so you can hear and read about the graph. NASA mathematicians created MathTrax in 2006 and its underlying Math Description Engine (MDE) is open source. To learn how blind students benefit from MathTrax, watch this demonstration by Nicole Torcolini, a computer science student at Stanford who used MathTrax in high school: How Blind Students Learn Using MathTrax
Benetech, a 501c(3) nonprofit, hopes to leverage the MDE to improve the accessibility of science and math textbooks in Bookshare (http://bookshare.org), which has nearly 200,000 student members with print disabilities (e.g. blind, low vision, dyslexic, cerebral palsy). Benetech is also the organization behind SocialCoding4Good, which aims to recruit software professionals to volunteer with organizations that develop Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS), such as Wikimedia Foundation, FrontlineSMS, The Guardian Project, Universal Subtitles and Benetech.
Benetech is challenging developers to incorporate modern technologies and standards to support its aspirations. Below are some specific challenges:
• MathTrax is a desktop application, which limits its adoption and the ability to embed it directly into EPUB 3 digital textbooks, which are based on modern HTML5 technologies. We would like to challenge developers to enable the MDE to generate HTML5 SVG graphics and use MathML for math rendering. Developers should consider using http://jsxgraph.uni-bayreuth.de/wp/ for SVG support and MathJax for MathML rendering http://www.mathjax.org
• Another advantage of using SVG graphics is that they are optimal for printing tactile graphics using embossers from companies, such as ViewPlus (http://www.viewplus.com/). Modern consumer grade 3D printers, such as MakerBot’s Thing-O-Matic, have the disruptive potential to make tactile graphics cheaper, more broadly available and more useful. We would like to challenge developers to prototype creating tactile diagrams and shapes that help teach mathematics and science. Developers attending the TechShop location in San Francisco should have access to the 3D printer there.
• MathTrax uses a sound sweep to audibly convey the graph in addition to the description. We would like to challenge developers to use the HTML5 Web Audio API to generate auditory representations of graphs without the need for Java components.
• Students usually find the auditory sweep helpful, with one major exception. When a sound sweep is played, the value of the x axis is conveyed by time and that of the y axis by pitch. The case when this does not work is in polar coordinates where the graph curves backwards in the negative x direction. An interesting and useful challenge posed by a blind student user is to try to develop a way to indicate horizontal as well as vertical direction in a sound sweep.
• We also like to challenge developers to create additional templates for teaching common core standards or enhancing current descriptions. For example, it would be good to enrich descriptions of sine waves with explanations that include the concepts of frequency and amplitude.
• We would like to challenge developers to integrate the MDE with our open source Poet tool for crowdsourcing image descriptions (http://github.com/benetech/ImageDescService and https://diagram-center.herokuapp.com/). You can try the Poet tool with the OER textbooks at: http://www.bookshare.org/browse/collection/34 . Download any of the DAISY format books with images and upload to Poet. An additional idea is to integrate with Poet a math handwriting recognition system such as http://research.cs.queensu.ca/drl//ffes/ or http://mathfor.mi.fu-berlin.de/docs/techreport-B-07-01.pdf, so that volunteers do not need to know how to enter complex formulas in LaTex or MathML.
Collaboration PadPublic Etherpad (read-only)
Login to view editable etherpad
- M. Edward (Ed) B.Attending Space Apps Challenge Virtual Participation
- B B.Attending Space Apps Challenge San Francisco
- Gerardo C.Attending Space Apps Challenge San Francisco
- Rom S.Attending Space Apps Challenge San Francisco
- Christos P.Attending Space Apps Challenge Virtual Participation
- Dean Marc C.Attending Space Apps Challenge Virtual Participation
- Selena G.Attending Space Apps Challenge Exeter
- Elisheva S.Attending Space Apps Challenge San Francisco
- Kp P.Attending Space Apps Challenge Tokyo
- Terry H.Attending Space Apps Challenge Virtual Participation
- Nuryamin S.Attending Space Apps Challenge Jakarta
- Sohail F.Attending Space Apps Challenge Melbourne
- Stephanie S.Attending Space Apps Challenge Virtual Participation
- Vardan S.Attending Space Apps Challenge Boulder
- Gerardo Capiel/Benetech
- MathTrax homepage
- MDE Developer Documentation
- GitHub repository to fork from for event
- How Blind Students Learn Using MathTrax