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A principal at a school for the blind asks:

We are looking at having the opportunity to teach a standard Algebra II class to a student who is blind, with a teacher who is sighted, but who does not have a working knowledge of the Nemeth code. Have you had staff who are sighted teach/work with a similar class without Nemeth code knowledge for a student who is blind? If so, how did you work with the complexities? What resources would you suggest we look into regarding having some of our staff go to for gaining Nemeth Code skills? Classes...taught by who, where, how much?

Susan replies:

When I was first hired at TSBVI, I was certified to teach secondary mathematics, had a bachelor's degree in mathematics, and a master's in mathematics education. I had no VI background, and I didn't even know literary braille, much less Nemeth code. I enrolled immediately in the VI program at UT (no longer in existence), but my first year was quite an experience. I had my print math book on one side of my desk, and the braille volume on the other. I played the match game, and my students and I somehow survived.

In those beginning days, I chose a textbook that had both a Chapter Review and Chapter Test in the student volume. (Some books still do this, but others supply these materials only in a supplementary teacher resource book.) In Texas all the adopted textbooks are brailled, so I stuck with the textbook for daily work and homework and even reviews and tests until I became more comfortable with the Nemeth code. I am presuming that your blind student knows Nemeth code (unlike his math teacher). If this is the case, then the math teacher needs to be sure that when he/she introduces a new math symbol in print that the braille student is introduced to what it "looks like" in Nemeth code. Most math textbooks have a symbol page either in the front or back of the text. The student and teacher can refer to this page to compare print and Nemeth symbols. Several years ago, a geometry teacher (with no knowledge of braille) was in a similar position; she chose to follow this approach. In fact, she liked my geometry book (selected by me for its easy accessibility by low vision and braille students) so much that she switched all of her other sighted students to that particular book as well! (Caution: Be sure that your chosen braille textbook contains correct Nemeth code and quality tactile graphics; otherwise, you may do more harm than good. Also, this is only a very TEMPORARY fix.)

Teaching secondary mathematics to a blind student requires a great deal more than Nemeth code, especially these days. Unfortunately, there was no course at the university on teaching mathematics to the visually impaired; in fact there didn't seem to be very many resources anywhere on the subject. There was no such thing as a web site. Over the years, I discovered and tested many wonderful manipulatives, tools, and technology which enhanced my students' learning and allowed them to do higher and higher mathematics independently. These days I spend a great deal of my time trying to be that missing resource for questions on how to teach mathematics to visually impaired students.

To answer your specific question on resources for gaining Nemeth code skills, see

Publications Available to Learn Nemeth Code

Other Ways to Learn Nemeth Code

Nemeth Code Reference Sheets

For assistance with specific teaching strategies for Algebra II, an Algebra II Nemeth symbols sheet, the Computerized Nemeth Tutor, suggested adaptive tools and technology for Algebra, a math packet, etc. - everything I ever wanted (but didn't have) when I first started teaching - continue searching this web site. Be prepared to spend hours.