MathPlayer+Read&Write = Better Understanding
A couple of weeks ago, the University of Kentucky's study, "Supported Math Accessibility Reading Tool" (SMART), reported positive findings from a pilot study. The study involved middle school students with print disabilities such as dyslexia. It was designed to see if assistive technology (AT) that took advantage of MathML might help these students and the early results are quite positive: students using AT learned more math, with the benefits increasing as the math grew more complicated.
The study involved Design Science's MathPlayer and TextHELP's Read&Write Gold software. The textbook, Say It With Symbols, came from Prentice Hall (part of their Connected Math 2 series). Prentice Hall converted the book to a NIMAS book that uses MathML for the math. This was then converted to XHTML using a tool from the DAISY consortium and CAST that we modified to work with MathML (its available for download from CAST). The end result was a book in the form of webpages that students could read in their browser using Read&Write and MathPlayer.
This is an example of the pieces of the math accessibility puzzle starting to come together -- DAISY, NIMAS, publishers, and AT vendors all took advantage of standards (especially MathML) so that students had better access to the math. The great thing about the SMART study is it shows the effort does pay off. We are continuing to work on improvements to MathPlayer and we'll let you know when there is a new version available.
If you want to read more about the study, the results were written up in a couple of places. There is an Education Week article by Andrew Trotter and there is a shorter one by the NSF. This was a small pilot study, but they are moving forward with a larger study. The results of that study should be out in the summer of 2009. We'll keep you posted.