Our two-part “Math by Touch” blog series is designed to be used by teachers with their students to incorporate learning Braille with math. You’ll find creative scenarios to get students engaged, historical details, and fun puzzles. Read Part 1 here.
Computing in Braille
Just like Louis Braille, who developed the initial alphanumeric coding out of a need to communicate, math scholar Abraham Nemeth realized while at college in 1952 that he was unable to write equations and formulas using traditional Braille, which, mathematically, has only the capacity for basic numeric statements. Nemeth couldn’t use traditional Braille to express equations with both variables and coefficients (algebraic expressions like 4x - 7), but he was also limited in his ability to show exponential expressions (such as x3).
At a college level, Louis Braille’s alphabet was not strong enough to support advanced mathematical reasoning. Nemeth was discouraged by his undergraduate professors when he indicated an interest in studying math, in part due to the limitations of Braille for the subject. Ultimately, he defied the beliefs of those professors and went on to receive a Ph.D. in mathematics with the help of his innovative coding.
Today, Nemeth Braille is used primarily in math classes, and there are some distinct differences in its notation compared to the Braille alphabet developed in the 19th century.
First, students must code that they are using numeric characters by putting a single number sign in front of their written expression: