ALGEBRA, PATTERNS & FUNCTIONS
By: Carmen Willings
Algebra is about finding the unknown or it is about putting real life problems into equations and then solving them. In teaching algebra, there are some adaptations that will allow students who are blind or visually impaired to access the concepts and skills.
Algebra includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. With all math skills, it is ideal to start instructing the student using three dimensional and real objects. For younger students and those with learning disabilities, this is especially true. It is ideal to use a variety of real materials/objects related to the current area of study to teach algebra, patterns and functions. Students can use these same objects and materials to sort, classify, or order by defined attribute. Once the student has mastered the concept, it is important to quickly transition to 2 dimensional, raised line representations as this is what the students will encounter in textbooks as well as tests. If using an abacus to solve algebraic equations, it can be helpful to use two abacuses. However, when student's solve algebraic equations, it is important to have students who are blind to use the Nemeth code verses the abacus as it is difficult to recall all the steps and not lose your place when using the abacus.
The Audio Graphing Calculator (AGC), provides the functionality of handheld scientific calculators commonly used in the classroom. Operating on a flexible Windows platform and augmented with audio and tactile feedback, the AGC provides an alternative for people who cannot effectively use a handheld calculator, or those seeking a more interactive interface. The AGC is accessible to anyone who can use a computer, regardless of ability, allowing the user to concentrate on math, not on learning the tools to access it.
Fractional Parts of Whole is a set from APH that introduce the concepts of wholes, halves, thirds, and fourths. The set consists of tactile circles that introduce the concepts of wholes, halves, thirds, and fourth.
Hands-On Equations is a supplementary program that can be used with any math curriculum to provide students with a concrete foundation for algebra. It uses the visual and kinesthetic instructional approach developed by Dr. Henry Borenson to demystify abstract algebraic concepts. This hands-on, intuitive approach enhances student self-esteem and interest in mathematics.
The Hundreds Board from APH is a great way for students to practice patterning.
MathBuilders Unit 1: Matching, Sorting, and Patterning is a supplementary math program. It includes a teacher's guide with lesson plans.
The Graphic Aid for Mathematics allows the student to construct geometric and other figures and graphs related to arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. Students can create figures and then take a picture of their work to turn in. Students can use embroidery thread yarn, ribbon, or electrical wire to provide various textures.
MathTrax is an educational technology tool that demonstrates the combined capabilities of the MDE library modules. Its primary audience is middle and high school students studying algebra, pre-calculus and calculus and in particular it serves blind and vision impaired (BVI) math students. MathTrax fulfills an educational need to demonstrate the relationship between math and real world science applications by translating and demonstrating math relationships in a tangible physical medium on a standard PC platform.
Students can create graphs by entering an equation, selecting an equation from a drop-down menu, entering raw data to be analyzed or activating a physics simulation. MathTrax graphs the equations and provides descriptions of those graphs using text and sound. The curves currently described are first and second order equations in two variables, i.e., line, parabola, ellipse, hyperbola, circle, null set, single point, and two lines. The dynamic text descriptions and sonification make the graphs accessible to blind students who do not use pencil, paper or written graphs to study mathematics. The text descriptions can be read by Java-capable screen readers such as Jaws for Windows, or can be input to speech synthesizing software to create self-voicing applications. MathTrax provides color and line settings for traditional "drawn" graphs to aid users with differing vision-impairments.
The Math Window® Braille Algebra Add-On kit contains letters of the alphabet for variable use, as well as the higher math symbols used in algebraic computations. When added to the Braille Basic kit, the student will have the moveable Nemeth tiles necessary to complete problems in Pre Algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra II.
$4.99 Talking Scientific Calculator is a comprehensive calculator app that is designed for a wide range of users, it features colorful buttons, high contrast, VoiceOver support, and the option to use speech for answers, buttons names and formulas.
Students in middle school following the standard course of study will need to use a scientific calculator. The Orion TI-36X Talking Scientific Calculator, available from APH, has identical functions to the Texas Instruments TI-36X calculator.
Large print/Large display calculators are available for students with low vision through various vendors. These calculators are sometimes paired with speech output. When selecting a calculator, remember the students need to first gain an understanding of numbers and how to perform operations, older students will be required to use calculators as they enter middle school and perform complex operations.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.