DCU team develops tech to help visually impaired kids learn maths online

28 Apr 2020

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Researchers at DCU have developed a new platform for teaching maths to visually impaired children using braille.

A team at Dublin City University (DCU) has helped develop new assistive technology to help children who are blind or visually impaired learn maths online. The platform, currently in a working prototype stage, aims to help a teacher prepare maths in the usual printed notation and then present it as braille to a student, and vice versa.

It’s hoped that the platform could be particularly beneficial for remote learning, but it could also be used in classes.

An online resource with best practice examples to support teachers has also been developed, giving them access to hundreds of methodologies and explanations of how best to teach maths to children with visual impairments. The team said this is the first and only resource of its kind available in Ireland.

A need for support

The project was developed as part of EuroMath, a European initiative to provide greater support to teachers and students with visual impairments in inclusive educational settings to level the playing field for young people learning maths.

DCU’s Dr Dónal Fitzpatrick, who is working with partners in Poland and the Netherlands on this project, said: “This is hugely important for children and the Irish education system. As it currently stands, there isn’t enough support for children with visual impairments in this country and that is reflected in the significantly low number of those with visual impairments choosing honours maths as a subject.

“If you think about how you might approach explaining to a young student with a visual impairment what a cylinder is or how to use fractions, this can be a challenge if you don’t know how.

“This innovative platform and practical tools that we have developed have proven methodologies and best practice examples on how best to explain and teach children of all ages so that both teachers and students will benefit.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic