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Mathematical Algorithms and their Modification for Blind Students

Lukáš Másilko

Jiří Pecl


Mathematics is very visual in its nature. We put objects into different positions in space (plane) that helps us understand the relationship between them better and enables us to handle them more easily. Many algorithms are based on visual work with data, e.g. graph theory, linear algebra, calculus, etc.

The authors of the proposal are teachers of mathematics for students with visual impairment at Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. When giving instruction, they face the following problem: how can blind people use a given mathematical algorithm in view of the fact that they follow all the information in linear way. They often have to decide whether to adapt such an algorithm or let blind students work with it in the same manner as their sighted peers do. Their goal is to find an optimal set of methods which would respect blind people’s linear manner of working with information and at the same time be sufficiently effective. The process of the computation as well as the result should be understandable to others as well, especially to those who supervise and evaluate the work.

The article will provide two specific examples of mathematical algorithms (matrix multiplication, polynomial division) and their modifications for blind students. These modifications will be evaluated according to their effectiveness and complexity. We also bear in mind comments and remarks we received during the workshop Typical Mathematical Problems in University Studies presented at the ICCHP Summer University on Maths, Science and Statistics for Blind and Partially Sighted Students held in 2012 (Linz, Austria). We will compare the modifications with the results of several existing publications focused on the didactics of mathematics. Finally, we will provide a summary of some other algorithms which we will analyze with regard to their accessibility for blind people. We intend to present our results during the next ICCHP Summer University 2013 in Karlsruhe, Germany.

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