CSUN Journal article: Research reveals promising academic results for accessible math eText
Steve Noble, Accessibility Research Consultant (Guest Author)
The CSUN Journal on Technology and Persons with Disabilities has recently published an article I authored entitled Using Mathematics eText in the Classroom: What the Research Tells Us. This article summarizes and compares the findings from two federally-funded multi-year research studies in which middle school students with learning disabilities used accessible math content with MathPlayer in combination with their standard classroom assistive technology. In both studies, students who used content in MathML were shown to increase academic performance in the mathematics classroom.
Both studies compared two groups of students with learning disabilities. One group had access to math materials prepared with MathML, while similar students received typical access in the form of printed materials and human readers.” Much of the MathML content in one study was created with MathType, while in the other study the publisher Pearson Education created the accessible mathematics textbook content themselves. Student participants in both studies used the assistive technology Read&Write Gold by Texthelp, a Design Science Accessibility Partner. The findings of these studies indicated the value of using MathML in digital content in place of the typical practice of using human readers as found in most schools.
While schools have historically relied on using human readers to provide access to print materials, it is clear this mode of access is far from adequate--especially for algebra and more complex math. Observations done in classroom settings revealed that students with learning disabilities rarely, if ever, request read-aloud accommodations in the math classroom, even when it was written into their Individualized Education Program (IEP). On the other hand, when students have access to mathematics content in a digital format that can reliably work with their assistive technology, they have the independent ability to read and reread math expressions as many times as they need. In my mind, we are simply doing a disservice to the millions of students with disabilities in our nation's schools by not providing them with math content in an accessible format that they can independently use. Let's all work together to fix this problem. Here are a few ideas about how to promote change in your community.
Steve Noble is a research consultant with a core focus in mathematics accessibility and assistive technology, and served as a researcher for the University of Kentucky's MeTRC research project. Currently he continues to serve on grant-funded research projects with both Bridge Multimedia and ETS, and previously served as Director of Accessibility Policy for Design Science.