Many of my professors in college have gone paperless, and assign homework, quizzes, and tests online using software like MyMathLab. I prefer to have digital assignments, so I have found this change to be awesome, since I don’t have to worry about having a backpack full of large print papers or asking professors to create accessible materials. This is especially beneficial for my math classes, where every number, letter, and symbol is important and needs to be the correct font size. Luckily, my calculus professor used MyMathLab, so I didn’t have to worry about whether a problem would be large enough or not. Today, I will be sharing my review of MyMathLab for users with vision impairment that use assistive technology.
What is MyMathLab?
MyMathLab is an online software by Pearson Education that accompanies their math textbooks. Students who purchase an access code can have access to the software and a digital copy of their textbook that they can access at any point. MyMathLab is a common software in several 100-level math classes at my college for assignments and exams. Professors seem to prefer that students use the digital textbook over the physical textbook since it is cheaper and easier to read. Students need a MyMathLab access code to use the software, and the price varies based on the class. There is currently no iOS or Android app available
About my math class
My calculus class used MyMathLab exclusively for all assignments, including homework and tests. For students in the virtual calculus class, homework and quizzes were completed using MyMathLab, while tests are proctored on campus using a different software.
After logging in, MyMathLab has several sections on the left side of the screen. I only ever used these three sections:
- The Assignments section shows a list of homework, quizzes, and tests to be completed, along with their due dates.
- The Gradebook section shows the same display, except at the end of the row a grade is added. The student is able to also see their grade at the top of the screen
- The Accessible Resources section is for students who use assistive technology to access their course. I used the accessible textbook, which is in HTML format and perfect for screen readers or screen magnifiers.
Homework, quizzes, and tests all have the same layout and generally the same question formats. Common answer formats included multiple choice, true/false, graphing, drop down lists, and fill-in-the-blank. Problems display one section at a time and students work through individual components of each problem. For homework assignments, students can check their answers and are able to re-work problems. The professor sets the amount of questions, but does not assign exact questions as the software uses random selection.
Using screen magnification software
Since I have low vision, I like to make things on the screen as large as possible. Sometimes, I had trouble trying to figure out what was on the screen when everything was magnified, because it would mess up the formatting of the page. As a result, I preferred to use a window view that only magnified one portion of the screen at a time, and then I would reposition the window with my mouse. Another benefit to this is that I didn’t get vertigo from moving my mouse too quickly across the screen when working in full screen mode.
Using a screen reader
Due to my fluctuating vision, I use the NVDA screen reader part-time on my desktop computer. Since I never received any formal training on how to use NVDA, it took a while to get used to. One example is the square root of 10-x would be read as “sqrt 10-x.” I also had issues reading complicated graphs with multiple equations, but I also had never learned how to use a screen reader to read graphs.
How I take tests in MyMathLab
In my calculus class, tests in MyMathLab included questions from the homework and quizzes. Per university policy, all tests were taken in a secure location using the Respondus LockDown Browser. However, since I took my exams in the Disability Services Testing Center, which used their own test monitoring software, I was not able to use Respondus and instead had to ask my professor to create a custom test for me that was compatible with the other software.
Here is the additional technology that I use to complete assignments with MyMathLab:
- External monitor, at least 22″ wide- when in my dorm, I use my HP Sprout. In the Disability Services Testing Center, I use an external monitor that was provided by my school assistive technology department.
- External mouse
- External keyboard
- iPad with guided access enabled for a calculator
- My HP Sprout
- Why I brought a desktop computer to college
- Making your keyboard easy to see here
- My favorite calculator apps
- Guided Access for iPad
What didn’t work for me
For questions with graphs, there is an option to zoom in or open the graph in a new window. I have found that no matter how much I zoom in, I still have trouble reading the graph. I also can’t see the problem in question when I open the graph in a new window. Things get even more confusing when there are lots of intersecting lines, since I have trouble distinguishing the different lines. I wish there were more high-resolution images and the option to use high-contrast graphs or bold text to improve readability.
While I can’t say that MyMathLab made doing calculus homework any more exciting, I am glad that I was able to access my assignments using my choice of assistive technology. Using MyMathLab eliminated the need for my professor to make accessible assignments. This allowed me to focus on learning math, and not troubleshooting assistive technology. If improvements are made to the way graphs are displayed, I will happily sign up for a math class that uses MyMathLab over a traditional math class that uses paper and pencil assignments.