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Math Instruction for Students with Visual Impairments

Students with visual impairments often face challenges accessing mathematical textbooks and instructional materials.

Illustration of teacher pointing to blackboard with basic addition problems
This entry is part 17 of 19 in the series Braille Brain
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The Challenge with Instruction

Research has shown that students with visual impairments should gain mathematical skills at the same pace as their sighted peers (Tindell, 2006). However, because mathematics is abstract and highly visual, the assimilation of these skills is often more difficult for students with visual impairments.  (Kapperman, Heinze, & Sticken, 2000). Therefore, students with visual impairments rely on specific pedagogies so they can understand fundamental principles and obtain key skills in mathematics.  

The Challenge with Textbooks

Students with visual impairments have difficulty accessing mathematical textbooks because most mathematics texts are highly visual, containing images that convey essential content and concepts that have not been transcribed in braille versions or are not adequately described in digital versions of the textbooks. Visual elements such as tables, line graphs, bar graphs, number lines and pie charts are difficult to succinctly describe and are often left to the TSVI or transcriber to reproduce in braille.

Specific Objectives

Due to the challenges with instruction and textbooks, specific objectives for mathematics instruction for students with visual impairments have evolved.  These include:

  • Acquiring mathematical language. 
  • Recognizing different types of numbers (natural, integer, rational, real and complex).  
  • Training the skills in mathematical calculations (knowledge of algorithms, writing calculations on a Braille typewriter, developing mental calculations. 
  • Recognizing geometric shapes and bodies by touch (tactile) and by description. 
  • Creating and developing the ability to imagine different spatial configurations (spatial orientation). 
  • Applying already learned mathematical concepts for solving common everyday problems. 
  • Acquiring the mathematical Braille code by assimilating the new symbols as the students’ progress. 
  • Training students who are blind to use geometry tools (ruler, set square, protractor, compasses).

Resources and Articles

Special Collection

Foundational Skills for STEM

Special Collection

Nemeth Braille Code Curriculum

Collage of Project INSPIRE
Lessons and materials

Project INSPIRE: Increasing the STEM Potential of Individuals Who Read Braille