Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New teaching tools aid visually impaired students in learning math

Mastering mathematics can be daunting for many children, but researchers have found that children with visual impairments face disproportionate challenges learning math, and by the time they reach the college level, they are significantly under-represented in science, technology, mathematics and engineering disciplines.

Researchers at the University of Illinois are helping shape the futures of children with visual disabilities by creating innovative teaching tools that are expected to help the children learn mathematics more easily – and perhaps multiply their career opportunities when they reach adulthood.

Nearly 5 million – or one in 20 – preschool-aged children and about 12.1 million children ages 6-17 have visual impairments, according to the Braille Institute.

Sheila Schneider, who is a senior and the first student who is legally blind to major in sculpture in the School of Art+Design within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at Illinois, is creating a series of small sculptures with mathematical equations imprinted on them in Braille that will be used to help children with visual impairments learn mathematics. The equations will be written in Nemeth Code, a form of Braille used for mathematical and scientific symbols.

“The sculptures are organic forms that are designed to be hand-held by children around the ages of 7-10,” said Deana McDonagh, a professor of industrial design and the lead investigator on the project. “They’re designed from the viewpoint of a younger child.”

“They’re very engaging, fun educational tools, and when the children run their hands over them, they’ll realize that there are Braille equations embedded within the forms,” McDonagh said. “We’re hoping that they’ll become mainstream educational tools.”

Traditionally, children with visual disabilities are taught to solve mathematical problems using abacuses, tools that may seem antiquated in today’s world and foster stigmatization, Schneider said.

“We’re trying to bring the education of visually impaired children more up to date, rather than relying on staid methods of doing things,” Schneider said. “We’re hoping to eliminate this idea that blind children have to learn math with an abacus because they can’t see to write on a piece of paper. We’re trying to eliminate the stigma and provide them with a method of engaging in and with math.

“We’re hoping that as they grow older, they’ll become more interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.”

Schneider sculpted six models, each a few inches in diameter, from cubes of balsa foam. The models are being translated into three-dimensional computer images to finalize the shapes and position the equations before the sculptures are cast from bronze, a durable material that can withstand extensive handling and occasionally being dropped.

“Where you and I might place the Braille equations is of no consequence,” McDonagh said. “When children with visual impairments are handling the sculptures, and reading them with their fingertips, it’s got to make sense to them where we place the Braille in three-dimensional space.”

Once the sculptures have been cast, the next step will be to have children with visual impairments and their teachers use them in math instruction to assess the sculptures’ efficacy as teaching tools.

“The number of people with disabilities is on the increase, and our population and its needs are changing,” said McDonagh, whose research and teaching focuses on empathic product design, assistive technologies and disability issues.”

“We’re trying to use people’s different life experiences and respect that there are different ways of doing things,” McDonagh said. “It’s an opportunity to bridge the gulf between the lived experience and science, mathematics and technology through sculpture.”

Renderings of the models will be displayed April 26-30 as components of Schneider’s graduate exhibition for her bachelor of fine arts degree, which she expects to receive at the end of the spring semester. The exhibition, which will be geared toward people with disabilities and will comprise stone sculptures and other pieces, will be held on the fourth floor of the Illini Media building, 512 E. Green St., Champaign.

Sharita Forrest | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht Studying outdoors is better
06.02.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Classroom in Stuttgart with Li-Fi of Fraunhofer HHI opened
03.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

21.03.2018 | Trade Fair News

Physicists made crystal lattice from polaritons

20.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>