University begins project to help blind students with math

Pilot draws on algorithm to break math problems into sequences

math-visionUntil he was 13, Logan Prickett did everything a normal child did.

However, anaphylactic reaction to contrast dye in an MRI test left him blind and confined to a wheelchair, without proper use of his motor skills and unable to speak louder than a whisper. Despite this, he graduated high school and recently completed his first year at Auburn Montgomery.

One subject Prickett is interested in is math, but because of his blindness, he was unable to solve problems the way other students could. His case ultimately became part of a pilot project launched this week to give blind students and those with lower vision the opportunity to solve math problems in normal classrooms.

“I’m probably the most excited person here,” Prickett said during the May 18 kickoff.

(Next page: How the Logan Project will help students with vision challenges navigate complicated math courses)

The Logan Project is a collaboration between Auburn Montgomery and Auburn University to develop software so students with conditions similar to Prickett’s can fully participate in math courses at the collegiate level and then enter careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

“I think there are students who are blind or have low vision that are not able to meet their core math requirements because we haven’t opened the doors to them,” said Ann Gulley, coordinator of AUM’s Instructional Support Lab and head of the project. “They have the intellectual capacity, but we don’t have something in place that will drive the intellectual process.”

The current algorithm operates in allowing students who cannot work out problems on paper to break down equations into sequences in order to remember where they are.

Daniela Marghitu, a computer science professor and director of Auburn University’s Educational and Assistive Technology Laboratory, will head AU’s participation in the project.

“What we are trying to do is basically build an application that will replace the human tutor and will be able to work with any other visually impaired student toward learning math,” Marghitu said.

Gulley said she and her team began work on the project in January and that with the contribution of over $19,000 from Auburn Montgomery to develop the project, its goals became more than a pipedream.

Gulley said it was important that Prickett was involved in every step of the program, even in its name.

“The heart of the project was that Logan would be our design expert as we seek to develop software to help make math acceptable to students who are blind or low vision,” she said.

Gulley said that in one year, she hopes to be putting in an application for external funding and continue pressing forward to develop software.

Copyright and distributed by the Associated Press, 2015. This article is part of the AP Member Exchange. Information from: Montgomery Advertiser,

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