Project Math Access

The following paragraphs describe in detail a recommended approach to teaching the braille mathematics symbols which comprise the Nemeth Code along with suggested alterations in format. Generally, strict adherence should be maintained in teaching the structure and function of the braille mathematics symbols. Materials and content should conform with the commonly accepted rules for writing the braille mathematics symbols. If a teacher makes changes in the written forms of the symbols, considerable confusion will arise when students read properly transcribed mathematics. Therefore, no matter how awkward some of the symbols may be to write, their proper form should be maintained.

There is one area of braille mathematics in which it is highly recommended that changes should be made in both the form of the symbols and format. This should be done when the braillewriter is being used as a tool to calculate addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division problems which are spatially arranged (as explained in detail in the section titled, The Braillewriter as a Calulation Tool. If one were to rigidly adhere to the transcription rules when using the braillewriter for this purpose, the use of the braillewriter as a calculation tool, which is difficult at best, would be much more difficult than it needs to be.

One must bear in mind the goal at hand as the student studies mathematics. In the case of performing arithmetic calculations, the goal should be to learn and practice the basic skills involved in the fundamental arithmetic operations. If strict adherence to the rules for brailling the Nemeth Code interferes with the achievement of that goal, then modifications in the rules should be made. The student should be encouraged to follow the Nemeth Code rules, however, whenever brailling any area of mathematics including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus, if the braillewriter is not being used as a calculation tool.

The mechanics of teaching the Nemeth Code symbols are similar to those which are employed in teaching the literary code. However, no research exists regarding the proper sequence in which to introduce Nemeth Code symbols. It is, therefore recommended that the Nemeth Code symbols should be introduced as they occur in the print versions of the mathematics texts which are being used in the program in which the student who is blind is enrolled. If the student is not thoroughly familiar with the symbols at the time that the mathematical concepts are being studied, he or she has no way to write those symbols and thus to study the concepts.

The student should be taught the correct meanings of the symbols as well as the rules governing the symbols, particularly those which do not have print equivalents. These include, but are not limited to, such symbols as the baseline indicator (dot 5), the superscript indicator (dots 4-5), the subscript indicator (dots 5-6), the opening fraction indicator (dots 1-4-5-6), and the closing fraction indicator (dots 3-4-5-6). In order to truly understand the code of braille mathematics, the student must have a full understanding of the rules governing the use of the symbols which comprise the code.

Students should always be presented with virtually flawless braille mathematics. This is even more important in braille mathematics than it is in the literary code. When one reads material written in the literary code which contains errors, the correct meaning can usually be determined through the use of context clues. There are no context clues available, however, when reading mathematical symbols. It is therefore very important that the braille mathematics symbols are precise and accurate.

It is obvious that if a student who is blind does not possess a thorough knowledge of the Nemeth Code, he or she will not be able to attain reasonable levels of achievement in mathematics.