How to Read Math Expressions with a Screen Reader on a Windows Computer

In this post, you will learn how students can access math materials digitally on a Windows computer using the NVDA screen reader.  Your student will need the following tools:

MathPlayer is a free piece of software from Design Science that enables a screen reader to speak mathematical expressions.  Using a typical install, MathPlayer will automatically integrate itself with NVDA and Firefox.  However, if you need to access the MathPlayer settings, you can do so by going to the Control Panel of your computer.  Students can also access information in braille via a braille display.  However, please note that at this time Nemeth Code is the best supported code for accessing materials this way.  In addition, the student will have to connect his braille display via the Preferences, Braille Settings menu in NVDA. 

Here’s a short video of Brice navigating a simple worksheet as a student would.


Accessing the Worksheet (NVDA commands)

The student will need to know a few basic NVDA commands in order to access a worksheet.

General Navigation in Browse Mode (not zoomed into math expressions)

  • Down Arrow ↓ - reads the next line down
  • Up Arrow ↑ - reads the next line up
  • Right Arrow → - reads the next character to the right
  • Left Arrow ← - reads the next character to the left

Digging Down-Using the Math Equation Viewer

Once the cursor encounters math, the screen reader reads the entire mathematical expression—the math expression has focus.

  • ENTER – activates the Math Equation Viewer
  • Right Arrow → - reads the next mathematical term to the right
  • Left Arrow ← - reads the next mathematical term to the left
  • Down Arrow ↓ - “zooms in” so that students can look at the expression by parts or character.  Students can zoom in until the point it says “zoomed in all of the way”.
  • Up Arrow ↑ - “zooms out” of each level students have zoomed in.  Repeatedly hitting the up arrow will eventually prompt “zoomed out all of the way”
  • Esc (the escape key) – exits the Math Equation Viewer.

For example of why zooming in and out is useful look at problem 5 on the sample worksheet, the screen reader will read the entire expression as “the fraction with numerator x plus 6 and denominator x minus 4”.  If students “zoom in” one more level by using the down arrow, the screen reader will then focus on just the numerator or just the denominator such that it will say “in numerator x plus 6” or “in denominator x minus 4”.  Then, if students zooms in yet another level, they can use the left and right arrows to reach each individual character.  Once escape is hit, the students are back in Browse mode which will allow them to navigate line by line. 


Accessing math materials on a Windows device works best when the student just needs audio support or audio support with Nemeth Code.  There currently seems to be issues with the UEB produced when accessing materials this way. 

Remember, once in the Math Equation Viewer, don’t forget you need to hit escape to get out of the Viewer.  Otherwise you will be stuck in the equation!

For more information on how the Sample Worksheet was created please see the post Creating Digital Math Worksheets that can be Accessed on Windows Computers.






Posted by KimMay 26, 2018

How does the student answer/respond/solve the math questions on that document? Do they need to use MathType and key the answers that way?

Will a refreshable Braille display read these math problems correctly as well?

Posted by Shannon PruittJun 04, 2018

These tutorials were created with the intention that the student is still creating their answers using a hard copy of braille (i.e. the student is not inputting the answer or editing the material in the worksheet in any way).  As mentioned, if you want a student to have access through a braille display, iOS would be the  better way to go. 

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