Veronica With Four Eyes

How I’m Using MyMathLab With Low Vision

When I was in high school, I often experienced a lot of frustration with getting accessible copies of math assignments and exams, as my school had difficulty with enlarging math content and often would accidentally cut off symbols or numbers. Because of this experience, I often preferred to receive digital copies of math assignments that I could enlarge on my device, and this preference carried over to college as I would try to choose math classes that provided paperless/digital assignments.

This semester, my Business Calculus used the MyMathLab software from Pearson for assignments, quizzes, homework, and tests. While I can’t say that MyMathLab makes taking a calculus exam or doing homework more fun, it definitely has made it easier for me to access my assignments in large print and I don’t have to worry about not being able to enlarge text. Here is how I’m using MyMathLab with low vision for calculus, and how MyMathLab works with assistive technology and accessibility settings for visual impairment.

Setting up MyMathLab and getting a textbook

Students will need to purchase an access code to access MyMathLab for the semester and get a class code from their professor to access course materials. MyMathLab comes with access to a digital textbook as well, though I downloaded a copy of the textbook from Bookshare as well because I wanted to be able to read the textbook in another reading application on my iPad. If the book was not available from Bookshare, I would have submitted a request to my college’s assistive technology office to get an accessible digital copy of the book.

It’s worth noting that while MyMathLab can be used on a tablet or mobile device, there is no mobile application available- MyMathLab is accessed through the web browser and does not require any additional downloads.

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Using a calculator

My professor does not have any calculator requirements for students- students are welcome to use whatever calculator they want. For exams, I use a calculator application on my iPad with Guided Access enabled- Guided Access is enabled by the proctor at the Disability Services Testing Center, which is where I take tests and other timed assignments. There are several different options for using calculator applications with low vision- I have an entire post dedicated to my favorite paid and free calculator apps that work with screen readers, large print, and other assistive technology for visual impairment linked below.

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Features I used with MyMathLab

MyMathLab has several different features and options for accessing course materials, however I only access content within the following sections:

  • The Assignments section shows a list of homework, quizzes, and tests to be completed, along with their due dates.
  • The Gradebook section has the same information as Assignments, 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, and this is updated in real time- my professor told us that this was the most reliable way to check grades as they did not regularly update the course website on Blackboard
  • The Accessible Resources section is for students who use assistive technology to access their course. My favorite resource is the accessible textbook, which is in HTML format and perfect for screen readers or screen magnifiers and can be enlarged with the control-+ shortcut.

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How my assignments are set up

Homework, quizzes, and tests all have the same layout and generally the same question formats. Common answer formats include 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 number of questions but does not assign exact questions as the software uses randomly generated values.

A popular study tool for students in my Business Calculus class is Quizlet, which has several options for creating and searching for digital flashcard sets.

MyMathLab and Screen Magnification

I prefer to use a docked view when using MyMathLab with screen magnification over the full screen view, which shows the magnified image in a fixed position on the screen and moves with the mouse cursor. Instead of pinning the docked view to the top of the screen, I move the window so it is on the lower half of my desktop monitor so I can read it through the bifocal lens in my glasses.

Users who prefer a larger screen view but do not want to use screen magnification may benefit from setting their device’s display to a lower resolution, starting with 800 x 600, or by using browser shortcuts such as control-+ or pinch-to-zoom to magnify content.

MyMathLab and Screen Readers

MyMathLab can be used with a screen reader and full keyboard access, though users will need to adjust a few settings first. One important thing to note is that users will need to turn on MyMathLab’s accessibility mode to use a screen reader.

To activate Accessibility Mode in MyMathLab:

  1. Open an assignment in the program
  2. Select the Settings button
  3. Select the Accessibility button, and turn Accessibility Mode on
  4. Select the OK button to save settings and close the Settings menu- this only needs to be done once per course

Another item to consider for professors is to ensure that screen reader accessible questions are made available to students. Screen reader accessible questions in MyMathLab have an accessible question icon next to them and include alt text that says “Question is screen-reader accessible.”

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How I take tests in MyMathLab

Tests have a similar interface to tests and quizzes, so students don’t need to worry about having an unfamiliar testing interface. As I mentioned earlier, I take exams in the Disability Services Testing Center, and my professor sets up a custom accessible test for me that includes accommodations like extended time and disables the default proctoring software- I use a different proctoring software in the testing center that is compatible with screen magnification.

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Other ways I’ve been using MyMathLab with Low Vision

I’ve been using a few other accessibility tools for accessing assignments with MyMathLab, including:

  • Turning on high contrast display mode to make it easier to see graphs/lines
  • Use of an external monitor/television- I cast my computer’s display to a Chromecast connected to a large screen TV or connect the computer in the testing center to a larger monitor
  • External mouse/keyboard- I don’t like using a laptop touchpad in math classes
  • Opening images of a graph in a new window to make them easier to enlarge. Some images are low resolution and unfortunately difficult for me to see, and I haven’t figured out a workaround for this
  • Whiteboard for working out problems- I find it easier to write on a whiteboard than on paper

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How I'm using MyMathLab with low vision. My personal experience with using assistive technology tools in MyMathLab with low vision for a Business Calculus Class