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The Personal Perspective of Abraham Nemeth

On March 4, 1996, the following response to an Internet survey on mathematics instruction for blind students was sent by Professor Abraham Nemeth, addressing a personal perspective of factors which were critical to his ultimate achievement and success as a mathematician.

I did not require any special methods of instruction. I attended regular classes where I took notes in braille supplemented by tape recordings of the lectures. I developed the Nemeth Code when I found that the other available codes in existence were inadequate as a tool for doing mathematics.

I used the braillewriter as the exclusive device by which I performed mathematical calculations and manipulated mathematics expressions. On a braillewriter, the dots appear on the top side of the paper where they can be immediately read. This allows for the rapid alternation between reading and writing which is required when interacting with mathematical expressions, and is the closest thing to the use of a pencil and paper used by the sighted.

To operate effectively in this manner, one must be a skilled and accurate braille user. I am congenitally and totally blind and was fortunate to have been taught braille at an early age. There were no areas in mathematics that caused me any particular difficulty. I often wished that my instructor would verbalize what he was writing on the blackboard. I tried contacting my professors to ask them to do that; sometimes I was successful and sometimes not. I believe that I could not have reached my potential in mathematics without the Nemeth Code. With it, I am able to read and write mathematics, as well as other sciences, at all levels, limited only by my talent and my ambition.