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Math image description project
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Math Image Description project. Who we are. Rob Wall Emerson, Dawn Anderson Western Michigan University Yue-Ting Siu, doctoral student at UC, Berkeley Under contract from MeTRC (Mathematics eText Research Center) at University of Oregon Mark Horney In partnership with DIAGRAM.

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Math Image Description project

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Math image description project

Math Image Description project


Who we are

Who we are

  • Rob Wall Emerson, Dawn Anderson

  • Western Michigan University

  • Yue-Ting Siu, doctoral student at UC, Berkeley

  • Under contract from MeTRC (Mathematics eText Research Center) at University of Oregon

    • Mark Horney

  • In partnership with DIAGRAM


  • What we are looking at

    What we are looking at

    • How best to describe the image components found in typical math textbooks (not the math equations)

      • What types of images require what level of description?

      • Are there types of images whose content cannot be adequately conveyed by any description?

    • We are not looking technological solutions but try to present material in a way as close as possible to a common student experience


    Our approach

    Our approach

    • Play audio files of portions of math texts, containing images, to students who are blind from grades 5, 8, and 11.

    • Files have varying levels of description.

      • None (“image”)

      • Little (“image of a graph”)

      • Standard

      • Extended

    • Students are assessed on capture of content and ease of capture of audible material.


    Some specifics

    Some specifics

    • We categorized images in representative math texts from grades 5, 8, and 11.

    • Identified 21 exhaustive and mutually exclusive image categories

    • 4 “meta categories” represent context for the images

      • introducing concepts

      • guided example

      • short question

      • real world manipulative


    More specifics

    More specifics

    • Word documents were created that mirrored the physical page in layout and coloring.

    • Each file contains images and ancillary text to provide context.

    • Math content that was not image related was translated into MathML and the entire file spoken using JAWS.


    Initial data

    Initial data

    • Chicago: sample of grade 5 and grade 11 students

    • Texas: 21 grade 8 and grade 11 students

    • Some images need no description (icons, borders)

    • Some image categories need limited description (cartoon characters, question specific images)

    • For some images more description is counter productive (tables, line graphs)

    • A major trend seems to be that many image categories would benefit from a multi-modal presentation of content

    • Have an audio version with description and for image related content, also have a braille version of the “description” and a tactile image.


    Data collection

    Data collection

    • Data trips being planned for Tennessee, Arizona, New Mexico, and Space Camp in Georgia

    • Data collection will continue through next school year with a target of 100 students being enrolled

    • We welcome any schools wanting to talk about their students being involved


    Category frequency

    Category frequency

    • First tier categories appear either on nearly every page of a text or several times on a page within certain areas of a text. Second tier images are more specific and appear occasionally, usually to serve a specific purpose. Third tier images appear infrequently.

    • The most commonly occurring image categories (from most to least) in the first tier were:

    • 1. Side images (background picture, graphic unrelated to question, organizational banners, headers, icons, extra features notation)

    • 2. balloon/sidebar

    • 3. question specific image

    • 4. shapes/2D or 3D representation

    • 5. table

    • 6. scatterplot/line graph

    • 7. number line

    • 8. ray/line diagram


    Category frequency continued

    Category frequency continued

    • The most commonly occurring image categories (from most to least) in the second tier were:

    • 1. screen shot

    • 2. flow chart

    • 3. equation

    • 4. pattern/series

    • 5. bar graph

    • 6. directions/illustrations of a physical task

    • 7. models (used to indicate similarity)

    • 8. calculator stuff

    • 9. maps

    • The most commonly occurring image categories (from most to least) in the third tier were:

    • 1. picture in a picture

    • 2. procedural aid

    • 3. organizational chart

    • 4. pie chart


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