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}] ### + + + + ## + + + + ## + + + ## + + + ## + ### + + # + + + ## + + ## ## # + # # + # + # ## # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # # ########################################################################## ## ## + + + ## ## + + ### + ## + + # ## + + ## ## + + ### + +