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A professional asks: What types of Braille Translation Software are people using to produce math materials? What is your opinion regarding MegaDots, Duxbury, others?

Susan replies: (see Nemeth Translation Software Manufacturers below for contact information)

Back when I had to make two separate documents for my print students and my braille students, I preferred to simply use six-key computer entry, not the Perkins, and braille my math materials. I could zip it out very quickly. I initially started out on BEX and then moved to BRAILLE KEYS using six-key entry (I think that was the name; I didn't like it because it didn't give me "dots"). Next, I moved to MegaDots. As a VI math teacher, I really enjoyed the ease with which it allowed me to type and translate the literary portion of mathematics and still braille the equations, etc. in Nemeth code without translation. Yet, I had to go back into the literary translation portion and change the problem numbers, etc. to proper Nemeth. With the addition of the Nemeth Code format style, even the literary portion was done correctly as well as "baby" Nemeth (numbers, "+", "-", "$", ".", etc.). By eliminating the literary cleanup chore and adding these baby Nemeth symbols, I was able to type many of my consumer math materials, which contained mostly word problems, and have MegaDots translate them in their entirety. I also love the way you can see in dots exactly what will appear on each page of the finished project prior to printout. I may wish to add extra space for insertion of a graphic or to keep a particular problem and or directions intact, and this WYSIWYG in braille feature is a great help.

However, since I am also a resource for other teachers, I decided I needed to beta test the various Nemeth Translation Programs: DBT, MegaMath, and Scientific Notebook/Nemeth Filter. None are perfect. You must decide which to use, if any, based on your particular needs and your software and hardware capacities. Duxbury (DBT) and Braille Planet (MegaMath) have since merged, and MAVIS (Scientific Notebook/Nemeth Filter) collaborated with Duxbury by allowing them to incorporate the Nemeth Filter into DBT as their LaTeX importer, so you now have an improved DBT and one less choice to make, all under the same corporate roof. Using Scientific Notebook and the new and improved DBT WIN ( LaTeX Importer added beginning with Version 10.3) are very user friendly for a sighted person entering secondary and higher mathematics, especially for producing Geometry materials, and suits my needs best. I can obtain multiple regular print, large print, and braille copies from one document in half the time because of the data entry method. However, it requires that you have a CD-ROM drive and other system requirements. In addition to providing a software package that can produce textbook quality print math materials, Scientific Notebook (SNB) has the added bonus of a built-in scientific graphing calculator, which a low vision student can use independently to complete his/her homework assignments. Although SNB is not accessible to the blind as is, Metroplex Voice Computing has a voice recognition package called MathTalk/Scientific Notebook with a read-back feature, which will allow blind students to use many of the Scientific Notebook features on their own, including producing a large print and Braille copy of their results.

MegaMath does not provide a useable print copy and is less user friendly; however, with practice, one can become quite proficient at producing all levels of math materials. In addition, it is accessible to the sighted and blind alike. MegaMath also might be preferred for producing elementary level mathematics materials, as it allows for the spatial arrangement of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems, whereas SNB+DBT WIN does not. If you do not need a print copy, you cannot meet the higher system requirements, you prepare materials for elementary students only, and/or you already have MegaDots, you may prefer the MegaMath add-on.

DBT (prior to Version 10.3), like MegaMath, used a data entry method that does not preserve a WYSIWYG format in print, so you do not have a useable print document. However, DBT WIN now has a LaTeX importer, which imports Scientific Notebook files for translation to Nemeth. This importer was developed at, and is copyrighted by, MAVIS at New Mexico State University. Duxbury's Nemeth translator is conveniently included in DBT, you can import certain graphics files, and it supports the spatial math used in elementary. If you already have DBT, it may be the choice for you.

Actually, at TSBVI, we have both translation packages. However, for my students' needs, I am definitely sold on SNB+DBT WIN. I can even envision the VI teacher purchasing Scientific Notebook for the math teacher, asking her/him to do all their tests and worksheets on it and save it to a disk, and then being able to produce identical regular print, large print, and braille copies in a matter of moments.

Nemeth Translation Software Manufacturers

Duxbury Systems, Inc.
270 Littleton Rd., Unit 6
Westford, MA 01886-3523
Phone: 978-692-3000, FAX: 978-692-7912
Website: http://www.duxburysystems.com
Email for general inquiries:
Email for DBT technical support:
Email for MegaDots technical support:
Email to Webmaster:
Nemeth production solutions including DBT and MegaDots' MegaMath Mathematics Translator.

MacKichan Software, Inc.
19307 8th Avenue, Suite C
Poulsbo, WA 98370-7370
Phone: 1-877-724-9673
Fax: 1-360-394-6039
Website: http://www.mackichan.com
With Scientific Notebook, create attractive documents with text, mathematics, and graphics, have it compute the solutions, import data from your graphing calculator, connect to the Internet and download documents, then translate to Nemeth Code and/or convert to large print. (Duxbury Systems)

Metroplex Voice Computing
P.O. Box 121984
Arlington , TX 76012
Phone: (817) 261-1658
Fax: (817) 543-1103
E-mail:
Website: http://www.metroplexvoice.com

MathTalk/Scientific Notebook (MT/SN) - operates Scientific Notebook (SN) with over 600,000 combinations of voice commands. SN is powered by MuPad" and has GRAPHING capabilities. SN will also evaluate, evaluate numerically, factor, combine, expand, simplify, check equality, solve exact and more. For details on SN, visit www.mackichan.com. The user may use voice commands to translate math into BRAILLE using the Duxbury Braille Translator 10.3/10.4/10.5. User can voice the Windows calculator, too! Voice math faster and translate into Braille with voice commands!

VIEW ONLINE MATHTALK DEMOS  (including "translate math to Braille") at www.mathtalk.com
This program has learning modules for Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Trig, Calculus, and Statistics.  New features include video demos show using the Windows calculator, the replace command, AND translating math to Braille! MathTalk/ScientificNotebook now operates with ALL Dragon NaturallySpeaking (DNS) 6.0 & 7.0 versions (Essentials, Standard, Preferred, Professional).