I have previously blogged about Mathematical Equations in Moodle where I showed how to use MathJax Filter to display mathematical equations in a Moodle page. However, testing equations with screenreader we found that even when we had used MathJax it was not correctly read out.

You can see the page we have tested here:

Our testing showed that:

- Windows Narrator worked well with Edge browser
- NVDA did not work with Chrome, Firefox or IE

After some desk research I found that MathPlayer free software allows NVDA to read math equations. Read the article How to Read Math Expressions with a Screen Reader on a Windows Computer to find out more.

This is how the page section with the equation was read by NVDA on Firefox before installing MathPlayer. Basically the screenreader did not “see” the equation. It did read half that was in the page though.

collapsed separator separated list of length 1

Use the link Moodle MathJax filter guide here to help you.

After installing MathPlayer it was read as:

equals

times

the fraction with numerator

the square root of

144

and denominator

2

times

times

open paren

y

plus

12

close paren

I am not 100% sure this is what is expected by a screen reader user as there seems to be too many “times” than how I would have read the equation. After installing MathPlayer, I could get NVDA to read equations on Chrome, Firefox and IE.

However, Perkins School for the Blind eLearning recommends Firefox browser use. If you have been able to get screenreaders to work well with math equations please let us know. We are keen to learn.

Thanks for your share on the JISC list – I hadn’t yet thought about how to represent formulae in learning materials I’m developing. Both TTS and ReadAloud plugins make mistakes with forumulae at https://www.mathjax.org/#samples NVDA does a lot better, but it doesn’t handle (a) well – it reads it as “uh parenthesis” rather than “a, parenthesis”, which would be confusing. Maybe, if the maths allow, a different letter could be used instead of “a”?

Thanks for your comment Paddy. Unless it is a well known formula like F=ma where people expects it to be ‘a’, I guess we could make it more accessible by using a different variable 🙂