Hello, I am XYZ, an admitted student in the Harvard College
Class of 20xx.  I am significantly vision impaired, and I was looking for a
graphing calculator, or software to imitate a graphing calculator that
either comes with enlarged print and display or is a program that displays
on the computer screen and can zoom in and out on the graph of a function.
Does the Harvard Mathematics department have a standardized mathematical
modeling and display program that is used with all courses?  

I am looking to concentrate in the physical sciences.  Is there a specific 
program or model of calculator that you would recommend for me?

Thank You Very Much,

Student XYZ
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear XYZ

thanks for your question. Here is some information which might
help you for now: 

Lecture Presentation:
-------------
the mathematics department uses standard projection
screens to project demonstrations and slides on screen. 
Most rooms have projectors installed. The presenter usually 
can adapt the size but would have to know beforehand if 
things need to be visible by students who are visually 
impaired. Usual standard guidelines for presentation: 
- 8 lines or less on one slide. - No details
on slides but keywords, - no bullet pointed powerpoint slides
should make slides automatically readable also for vision
impaired students. 

Graphing calculators
--------------------
We are rarely using graphing calculators. 
They are still used in our one year calculus course MathX,
but many of us use real computer algebra systems like 
Mathematica to demonstrate things.  I personally think that
graphing calculators can still make sense in high school but 
that they are no more appropriate on a college level, where one 
needs to get in touch with professional tools like a industry standard
computer algebra system.  Graphing calculators don't make
sense because of their limitations, complexity and lack of 
flexibility (for example to interact with other programs)
and lack of precision (for example to adjust the number of 
digits used in calculations).  

Computer algebra systems:
-------------------------
Computer algebra systems like 
Mathematica can also be used by blind people because they
allow interaction by terminal. I myself mostly use the direct
terminal connection and not a graphical user interface. 
Below, I have some examples of an interaction with Mathematica
just by terminal. It is this flexibility which makes such systems 
highely superior to the graphing calculator toys used in high school.
One can for example export the output to a braille terminal or let
it read to you without additional cost. Apropos: Harvard has 
site liceneces for some computer algebra systems including 
Mathematica. 

Mathematical text:
------------------
For mathematical writing and reading, I recommend Latex. Once you 
get used to it, you don't need to see the actual compiled end, but
you can read things like 

    \int  \sin(x) dx   = - \cos(x) 
    \sin(2 \alpha) = 2 \sin(\alpha) \cos(\alpha)

We had an almost blind student a few years ago who would get handouts 
directly in latex. Harvard has an accessibility office which scans
and translates textbooks in latex, if they have enough resources 
to do so. Also with latex, one can directly interact using a terminal.
One is not dependent on the mercy of a typesetting frontend, evenso
many like the TeXShop on Macintosh. 

Electronic testing:
-------------------

We have experimented since many years with electronic quizzes and 
homework. The pedagogical and reliability issues of online tests 
(many questions can be answered by Google or computer algebra systems,
a once given test is public since a push of a button stores 
the test somewhere else, even if the test was taken in a closed environment). 
But already the technical difficulties to makes this right are always
underestimated, especially in math, where formulas have to be displayed
in a way that every browser can render it without plugin, that formulas
can be enhanced in size for vision impaired readers. MathML, Java or 
Flash solutions are absolutely out of question, so displaying formulas
as pictures and having the formulas in Latex form in the alt tag is
the only possible solution. Done right, an online test or online homework 
should also be doable with a textbrowser like lynx. 

Best regards

Oliver Knill


----------------------------------------------------------------------
> math
Mathematica 6.0 for Linux x86 (32-bit)
Copyright 1988-2008 Wolfram Research, Inc.

In[1]:= Series[ Log[1+x],{x,0,5}]

             2    3    4    5
            x    x    x    x        6
Out[1]= x - -- + -- - -- + -- + O[x]
            2    3    4    5

In[2]:= Integrate[Sin[x]^8,x]

        35 x   7 Sin[2 x]   7 Sin[4 x]   Sin[6 x]   Sin[8 x]
Out[2]= ---- - ---------- + ---------- - -------- + --------
        128        32          128          96        1024

In[3]:= ArcTan'[x]

          1
Out[3]= ------
             2
        1 + x

In[4]:= Solve[x^3+3x==4]

                         -1 - I Sqrt[15]         -1 + I Sqrt[15]
Out[4]= {{x -> 1}, {x -> ---------------}, {x -> ---------------}}
                                2                       2

In[5]:= Plot[Sin[x],{x,0,10}]
                                                                                  
                                                                                  
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