April 15, 2008
Mathematician Elizabeth Jones (Indiana State University), who serves as a consultant for ViewPlus Technologies, (Corvallis, OR), has helped create mathematical software for visually impaired students, most of whom attend mainstream classrooms.
The software program focuses on teaching the basics of addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Revised versions are intended to deal with division, fractions, and higher levels of mathematics. “If they don’t get the lower levels," Jones indicated, "they won’t be able to use high-level math.”
The program allows a computer to sound out text and figures on the screen, after which an embosser creates printouts in braille, including graphics. Students are able to place the printed page on a touch pad connected to a computer. “They can touch on the printed page and the computer will voice what it is,” Jones said. "We would like it to work for everyone from blind and deaf students to the gifted and talented,” Jones indicated. The goal is to have the technology available for schools and home-schooling by fall 2008.
By ending dependency on the abacus, the software will help "get blind kids doing arithmetic the same way as sighted kids,” Jones said. “As a mainstream math educator, when I’m making curriculum, there are things that I just don’t think about. Now, it’s on my radar and I’ll pass it on to my students before they’re thrown into it.”