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Carnegie Learning Improves Curricula Software Accessibility for Math Students with Special Needs

October 4, 2011

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Collaboration between the University of Kentucky and Carnegie Learning is providing students with disabilities in Kentucky’s Shelby County Public Schools with access to a digital math textbook that speaks words and equations aloud while highlighting elements on a computer screen. Focused on identifying ways to deliver math content that is more effective than printed books or common forms of digital textbooks, the KY Math Etext Project is one strand of the multi-year Mathematics E-Text Research Center (MeTRC) project at the University of Oregon funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education.

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Launched in the 2010-11 academic year, the KY Math Etext Project integrates Carnegie Learning’s math curricula with assistive technologies for students with learning disabilities. The project began with a cohort of 6th graders at Shelby West Middle School last year, and will continue in 2011-12 with the same cohort in the 7th grade. Student eligibility for participation in the KY Math Etext Project is based on local documentation in each student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) of the need for oral accommodations to access print-based materials.

Although assistive technologies that read literary materials have been used for many years, this project is compelling because it makes math symbols and equations equally readable with synthetic speech. The math content is represented in an accessible format called Mathematical Markup Language (MathML), which enables the synthetic speech to be customized based upon student needs and teacher input, an important and unique aspect of the KY Math Etext Project research project.

“This is a significant project because it recognizes that certain students need different supports to be able to read math independently, depending upon both a student’s disability and grade level,” said Preston Lewis, director of the MeTRC Kentucky research strand. “Making curriculum truly effective for students with special needs is not as straight-forward as creating accessible versions of textbooks and supplementary materials, but is more nuanced in nature; for example, a blind student needs to know more information about the visual nature of some math elements, such as when a letter is upper case or colored red, but those details become distracting to sighted students with reading disabilities.”

One outgrowth of the project’s collaboration has been a number of accessibility advances that allow Carnegie Learning’s new MATHia® middle school software to be used with existing assistive technologies to speak words and equations aloud while highlighting elements on a computer screen. The KY Math Etext Project is also converting a PDF version of the Carnegie Learning textbook into an accessible format for use on a computer by students with special needs.

“The opportunity to participate in this ground-breaking project will assist the faculty of Shelby County West Middle School in reducing barriers to student learning in math,” said Lorri Stivers, principal of Shelby County West Middle School. “I believe the KY Math Etext Project will make math more accessible to students of all ability levels and we are anxious to see the impact on student achievement.”

Results from the research will inform the University of Oregon’s MeTRC group about how increasing electronic capabilities in the form, function, and content of curricula might increase access to mathematics and improve student learning and achievement.

“The KY Math Etext Project is a tremendous opportunity for us to work with experts in mathematics accessibility,” said Dr. Steve Ritter, chief scientist and co-founder of Carnegie Learning, Inc. “We appreciate the opportunity to understand ways in which we can better adapt our materials to help students with special needs.”

About Carnegie Learning, Inc. (www.carnegielearning.com)

Carnegie Learning, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: APOL), is a leading publisher of innovative, research-based math curricula for middle school, high school, and post-secondary students. Providing differentiated instruction in schools across the United States, Carnegie Learning is helping students to succeed in math as a gateway to graduation and the 21st century. Founded by cognitive and computer scientists in conjunction with veteran mathematics teachers, Carnegie Learning is helping to re-invent mathematics instruction, empowering students to produce significantly improved math scores in a diverse spectrum of school districts. Carnegie Learning, Inc. is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

SOURCE Carnegie Learning, Inc.


Source: PR Newswire