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How to type math?

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My DS13 has terrible handwriting.  Really terrible.  We are working on remediating that, but I'm not sure that it's actually fixable.

In the meantime, his terrible handwriting is really getting in the way of math - he's doing Singapore Dimensions 7.  Problems are complex enough that he needs to show the work, and the work involves multiple steps.  Inevitably, he gets tripped up because he can't read his own bad writing from one step to the next (x's look like y's, t's look like +'s, 9's look like g's, exponents get mixed up with non-exponents, etc).

He's a good typist. I think that typing his math work would be a good solution - either just for now, until we get the handwriting under control, or maybe even forever if he really takes to it.  I wonder if anyone knows of word processing software for math?  That would make it possible to easily type equations with fractions, exponents etc?  Such thing must exist?

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Try Mathshare, which is free and was designed for this exact problem.   I took a webinar to learn about it, but I have not played with it, so I can't give you any specifics.  https://mathshare.benetech.org/cms

Here is a link on youtube that gives an overview:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_wFShoxGT4

Here is a second link, going through an example, although I think he goes a little fast for a newbie.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_wFShoxGT4

Students are expected to explain their answers, step-by-step, so they can either type or talk to text.  Then there is a button to share with the teacher.  So you would have to play with it to see how it all works out.  If your son likes computers, maybe he will figure it out in no time!  Let us know any feedback on this site!

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My son uses LaTex. He does his math on Overleaf, it’s a web base LaTex editor

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The professional method is LaTeX. AoPS has free TeXeRs:

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11 hours ago, Marie.Sd said:

My son uses LaTex. He does his math on Overleaf, it’s a web base LaTex editor

Oh, I’ve never seen that!! I should check it out.

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How long does it take learn LaTex that you could be fast enough that you could use it on a timed test.  My younger boy has dysgraphia and we are considering this option, but I'm concerned it will take too long to learn to be crazy fast.

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45 minutes ago, lewelma said:

How long does it take learn LaTex that you could be fast enough that you could use it on a timed test.  My younger boy has dysgraphia and we are considering this option, but I'm concerned it will take too long to learn to be crazy fast.

What kind of test? Where would he get the software to compile it on a test?

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

How long does it take learn LaTex that you could be fast enough that you could use it on a timed test.  My younger boy has dysgraphia and we are considering this option, but I'm concerned it will take too long to learn to be crazy fast.

There is a certain logic to Latex once you learn different parts of it.  The first thing I usually teach is fractions:

$\frac{1}{2}$  yields

Your student will be using the black slash and the curly braces a lot.  These are keys that don't normally get a lot of exercise, but as you type more you develop a muscle memory for them like other keys.  Curly braces delimit stuff that you want to put somewhere like in exponents or subscripts or in fractions.  The backslash tells Latex to not write the word "frac" but to instead prepare for a fraction.

I've had kids taking the AoPS online class starting with no Latex at all.  I teach them fractions and pretty soon instead of even looking up code, they just guess what it is and they are right!

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4 minutes ago, daijobu said:

I've had kids taking the AoPS online class starting with no Latex at all.  I teach them fractions and pretty soon instead of even looking up code, they just guess what it is and they are right!

I've had lots of kids start from nothing and pick it up relatively quickly. I think it probably helps to have done some coding before, though.

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Just recently a student and I were wondering what produces the sigma summation sign.  I guessed the code was \sigma.  My student thought it was \sum.  She was right.

$\sum^{100}_{k=1}$

$\sigma^{100}_{k=1}$

😅

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1 minute ago, daijobu said:

Just recently a student and I were wondering what produces the sigma summation sign.  I guessed the code was \sigma.  My student thought it was \sum.  She was right.

$\sum^{100}_{k=1}$

$\sigma^{100}_{k=1}$

😅

I think for the big one, it's \Sum, no?

And I keep trying to write this one as sigma, too...

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1 minute ago, Not_a_Number said:

I think for the big one, it's \Sum, no?

And I keep trying to write this one as sigma, too...

\sigma is for little sums.

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Ah-ha. Just checked, and \Sum is an undefined control sequence 😞 . I always mess this up!

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This is a good reference for Latex symbols.  https://artofproblemsolving.com/wiki/index.php/LaTeX:Symbols

And beyond that I just google "sigma summation Latex" or similar.  (This is also how I teach myself python, btw.)

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4 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

What kind of test? Where would he get the software to compile it on a test?

If my boy with dysgraphia ever wants to take a math course at university, he will need to be able to type up his answers at speed on a timed one hour test.  He could hand write it in about 2.5 hours, but they only give him 10 extra minutes for an hour long test.  So basically, if he can't type at speed, he won't be able to do another math class, ever. So, he would have to be able to type in Latex as fast as you would write a timed test. So very very fast.  He cannot code, because he has dysgraphia, and those two things don't go together. However, he is very good at keyboard shortcuts, so I figured that it was really the same.

How many hours would he have to commit to be able type as fast as fast writing? 20? 100?

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Just now, lewelma said:

If my boy with dysgraphia ever wants to take a math course at university, he will need to be able to type up his answers at speed on a timed one hour test.  He could hand write it in about 2.5 hours, but they only give him 10 extra minutes for an hour long test.  So basically, if he can't type at speed, he won't be able to do another math class, ever. So, he would have to be able to type in Latex as fast as you would write a timed test. So very very fast.  He cannot code, because he has dysgraphia, and those two things don't go together. However, he is very good at keyboard shortcuts, so I figured that it was really the same.

Ah OK. So he can't program? I do think of LaTeX as a miniature program. It will throw errors if it's not formatted properly, for example. So I don't know if I'd use it if that's going to be a stumbling block.

I think Microsoft Word has some pretty decent keyboard shortcuts nowadays -- I've had kids turn in work written in that. That might be an easier thing to work on.

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37 minutes ago, lewelma said:

If my boy with dysgraphia ever wants to take a math course at university, he will need to be able to type up his answers at speed on a timed one hour test.  He could hand write it in about 2.5 hours, but they only give him 10 extra minutes for an hour long test.  So basically, if he can't type at speed, he won't be able to do another math class, ever. So, he would have to be able to type in Latex as fast as you would write a timed test. So very very fast.  He cannot code, because he has dysgraphia, and those two things don't go together. However, he is very good at keyboard shortcuts, so I figured that it was really the same.

How many hours would he have to commit to be able type as fast as fast writing? 20? 100?

My son has dysgraphia. This is why he is using LaTeX. He does all of his homework with LaTeX, not just math. He is using it for Physics this year. It took him a long time at the beginning to get an assignment done. Probably about twice the time he would spend writing it out, but now it is just as fast as writing.

If your son wants to learn to code, try Scratch.  Ds learned Scratch first and then move on to other languages. Now he can code in Python and Java. We had ds practice typing on dancemat.com to get his speed and accuracy up. He would practice for about 15-20 minutes per day. It was very slow going at first up he is up to about 40-50 wpm.

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What about this?

There was another tablet based program like this, but I can't remember what it's called!! I'll report back later when I have a chance to look it up.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

If my boy with dysgraphia ever wants to take a math course at university, he will need to be able to type up his answers at speed on a timed one hour test.  He could hand write it in about 2.5 hours, but they only give him 10 extra minutes for an hour long test.  So basically, if he can't type at speed, he won't be able to do another math class, ever. So, he would have to be able to type in Latex as fast as you would write a timed test. So very very fast.  He cannot code, because he has dysgraphia, and those two things don't go together. However, he is very good at keyboard shortcuts, so I figured that it was really the same.

How many hours would he have to commit to be able type as fast as fast writing? 20? 100?

I think it is time for you to talk to the University directly. You will want the Accessability office (used to be Disability).

My understanding is that all NZ universities follow the same system. Our experience with Waikato is that you cannot use Latex, only Word. Logan gets a paper test and a digital test in Word and can complete whichever parts he wants in either format. He generally does some on each as writing and typing (for him) use different parts of the brain so it helps with fatigue.

But you also shouldn't be limited to just 10% extra time. Yes, that is the default, but it is very easy to get that to 50% with the paperwork that you already have. Some people get 100% but that takes a lot more hoop jumping to get the extra funding for supervision. I have worked at Waikato as a test supervisor so I got to see what accommodations were being used.

We found Accessabilty very helpful, and their goal was to provide you with what you need to make sure that your test results show what you know. It does take time to get the accommodations in place at uni, so it would be good to contact them this year so that you know exactly what is possible.

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4 hours ago, kiwi mum said:

I think it is time for you to talk to the University directly. You will want the Accessability office (used to be Disability).

My understanding is that all NZ universities follow the same system. Our experience with Waikato is that you cannot use Latex, only Word. Logan gets a paper test and a digital test in Word and can complete whichever parts he wants in either format. He generally does some on each as writing and typing (for him) use different parts of the brain so it helps with fatigue.

But you also shouldn't be limited to just 10% extra time. Yes, that is the default, but it is very easy to get that to 50% with the paperwork that you already have. Some people get 100% but that takes a lot more hoop jumping to get the extra funding for supervision. I have worked at Waikato as a test supervisor so I got to see what accommodations were being used.

We found Accessabilty very helpful, and their goal was to provide you with what you need to make sure that your test results show what you know. It does take time to get the accommodations in place at uni, so it would be good to contact them this year so that you know exactly what is possible.

DS is taking a single class at Vic this term and next term, with full time enrollment planned for Canterbury next year.  We are working with the Disability office (yes, still Disability at Vic) and have gotten so much help.  However, the guy we are working with has said 10% extra is all you can get which he told us was true at all the universities, so I'm very glad to hear that he might be able to get 50% extra. It would be very sad to say no more math ever because he just writes/types too slowly.  The Disability office at Vic did give us a sheet that listed Latex as an option to work with, but I didn't ask it if was available for tests.  I'm guessing it will be word, so I'll have him look at it. I would like to get his speed up this year, so that he is ready next year to work at speed.

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Wow, I am surprised they are saying 10% max. Good thing he is not planning on continuing at Vic. Hopefully Canterbury will be more helpful. We just keep getting asked "what do you need to be successful" and my problem was I didn't know what was possible. We ended up getting approved for things that he has not ended up needing (writer, notetaker) but it was nice to know they were there if needed.

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The app is called ModMath. I personally found it clunky to use, but I’m passing it on in case others find it helpful.

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Wow, I had no idea anything like this even existed! Guess my age is showing ,😂

Edited by Servant4Christ
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11 hours ago, kiwi mum said:

Wow, I am surprised they are saying 10% max. Good thing he is not planning on continuing at Vic. Hopefully Canterbury will be more helpful. We just keep getting asked "what do you need to be successful" and my problem was I didn't know what was possible. We ended up getting approved for things that he has not ended up needing (writer, notetaker) but it was nice to know they were there if needed.

Right now they are saying the best option for tests is a writer, but my ds really wants to be independent.  He earned 72 level 2 and 3 excellence credits last year because he was given the time he needed to do the work.  Put him under time pressure, and there is no way he can succeed. I also can't see how a writer for math would be very fast, especially if you make a mistake and need someone to cross out something and then put in something, etc.  He has to be able to write the math on his own, and using an equation editor I doubt would be faster than handwriting. He is very good with keyboard shortcuts, but using a mouse to click on special math characters on a ribbon would be incredibly frustrating to him.

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Just now, lewelma said:

Right now they are saying the best option for tests is a writer, but my ds really wants to be independent.  He earned 72 level 2 and 3 excellence credits last year because he was given the time he needed to do the work.  Put him under time pressure, and there is no way he can succeed. I also can't see how a writer for math would be very fast, especially if you make a mistake and need someone to cross out something and then put in something, etc.  He has to be able to write the math on his own, and using an equation editor I doubt would be faster than handwriting. He is very good with keyboard shortcuts, but using a mouse to click on special math characters on a ribbon would be incredibly frustrating to him.

Maybe LaTeX would work, then? With lots of shortcuts? Would he be OK if it doesn’t compile and has to find errors? He could just undo until the last time it worked, maybe?

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5 minutes ago, lewelma said:

Right now they are saying the best option for tests is a writer, but my ds really wants to be independent.  He earned 72 level 2 and 3 excellence credits last year because he was given the time he needed to do the work.  Put him under time pressure, and there is no way he can succeed. I also can't see how a writer for math would be very fast, especially if you make a mistake and need someone to cross out something and then put in something, etc.  He has to be able to write the math on his own, and using an equation editor I doubt would be faster than handwriting. He is very good with keyboard shortcuts, but using a mouse to click on special math characters on a ribbon would be incredibly frustrating to him.

Yeah, a writer doesn't really work for stem subjects, especially since they are unlikely to have the subject knowledge to understand how to write advanced maths or science notation. Is he taking maths classes at Vic? I would contact Canterbury to see what they will do. Also, feel free to let Vic know what Waikato does. I am happy to pass on contact details for Accessability at Waikato if Vic wants to talk to them.

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19 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Maybe LaTeX would work, then? With lots of shortcuts? Would he be OK if it doesn’t compile and has to find errors? He could just undo until the last time it worked, maybe?

That is why I was considering it, but as Kiwimum said, it may not be allowed. So this year he had 3 untimed precalc tests, and took one timed calculus exam, and earned an A in each (only given to 10-15% of students as there is no grade inflation here), so he can clearly do the work. These are national exams -- all students take the same exam, so earning an A in calc is a very good mark given that only the best maths students take calc. At least half of students don't take maths in 12th grade, and half of those that do, take Statistics. So only maybe 15-25% of students take calc. Basically, the tests/exams are very hard. And he can do the work. I think this is what we will have to argue to get him 1.5 time which even that won't be enough.

In NZ the calculus exam has 3 subpieces - complex numbers, differentiation, and integration. You have 3 hours to do all 3, but some students will void one to get 1.5 hours per exam.  Basically, no one knows that you can just take 1 exam if you want. So my ds just took differentiation and had 3 hours to handwrite it. He earned an A, which is only given to about 12% of students, and his A was very high (it would have been a perfect score except one small error). So basically with somewhere between double and triple time, he can do the work and do it well. If he had only an hour, he could have earned a C (I think), and if he had 1.5 hours he could have earned a B (I think). But the questions required to earn an A are very long (as in a full page of workings) and there are 3 of them. If he gets only 10 extra minutes per hour, he would need to skip through the test and only do the easiest questions with the least writing required. He would never be able to show what he can do.

He would like to take a math class next year, so we are trying to sort out a plan this year so he can practice and be ready.

Edited by lewelma
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2 minutes ago, kiwi mum said:

Yeah, a writer doesn't really work for stem subjects, especially since they are unlikely to have the subject knowledge to understand how to write advanced maths or science notation. Is he taking maths classes at Vic? I would contact Canterbury to see what they will do. Also, feel free to let Vic know what Waikato does. I am happy to pass on contact details for Accessability at Waikato if Vic wants to talk to them.

Thanks for this.  He is not taking maths at Vic this year, he is doing an Earth Science class. So we have time to sort this out.

I have contacted Canterbury about a different issue, and have found it somewhat difficult to talk to people because 1) I'm the mum, and 2) my son is not enrolled. What he and I would like to do this year is figure out what his accommodations will be, and drill under those requirements. Get practice tests for some classes where he knows the content, give him the limited time, and work to see what he can skip to finish the test. We have tried the 'write faster' method, and it is just a no go.  The connection from his brain to his hand is just slow.

I agree that a writer for STEM is impossible. They are suggesting one for ds for Earth Science, which might be OK because there is very little maths, but it will be by Zoom, so that will be weird and difficult.  DS does NOT want a writer, he wants to be able to do it himself.

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14 minutes ago, lewelma said:

That is why I was considering it, but as Kiwimum said, it may not be allowed. So this year he had 3 untimed precalc tests, and took one timed calculus exam, and earned an A in each (only given to 10-15% of students as there is no grade inflation here), so he can clearly do the work. These are national exams -- all students take the same exam, so earning an A in calc is a very good mark given that only the best maths students take calc. At least half of students don't take maths in 12th grade, and half of those that do, take Statistics. So only maybe 15-25% of students take calc. Basically, the tests/exams are very hard. And he can do the work. I think this is what we will have to argue to get him 1.5 time which even that won't be enough.

In NZ the calculus exam has 3 subpieces - complex numbers, differentiation, and integration. You have 3 hours to do all 3, but some students will void one to get 1.5 hours per exam.  Basically, no one knows that you can just take 1 exam if you want. So my ds just took differentiation and had 3 hours to handwrite it. He earned an A, which is only given to about 12% of students, and his A was very high (it would have been a perfect score except one small error). So basically with somewhere between double and triple time, he can do the work and do it well. If he had only an hour, he could have earned a C (I think), and if he had 1.5 hours he could have earned a B (I think). But the questions required to earn an A are very long (as in a full page of workings) and there are 3 of them. If he gets only 10 extra minutes per hour, he would need to skip through the test and only do the easiest questions with the least writing required. He would never be able to show what he can do.

He would like to take a math class next year, so we are trying to sort out a plan this year so he can practice and be ready.

Is this a very NZ thing? I had kids in my calculus classes who got double time 😞 .

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8 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Is this a very NZ thing? I had kids in my calculus classes who got double time 😞 .

I have no idea.  The disability office at the local uni said 10 minutes extra per hour, and he said it was the same at Canterbury. But sounds like I need to call them directly, since Kiwimum is finding that 1.5 time is possible.

Their solution just seems to be to give the kids a writer.  But maybe the people making the decisions have never tried to use a non-mathy writer on an advance math exam. 🙂

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

Thanks for this.  He is not taking maths at Vic this year, he is doing an Earth Science class. So we have time to sort this out.

I have contacted Canterbury about a different issue, and have found it somewhat difficult to talk to people because 1) I'm the mum, and 2) my son is not enrolled. What he and I would like to do this year is figure out what his accommodations will be, and drill under those requirements. Get practice tests for some classes where he knows the content, give him the limited time, and work to see what he can skip to finish the test. We have tried the 'write faster' method, and it is just a no go.  The connection from his brain to his hand is just slow.

I agree that a writer for STEM is impossible. They are suggesting one for ds for Earth Science, which might be OK because there is very little maths, but it will be by Zoom, so that will be weird and difficult.  DS does NOT want a writer, he wants to be able to do it himself.

Logan has chosen no writer with 50% extra time. Occassinally that has meant taking a B when he should have had an A, but he is comfortable with that. If he were limited to 10% extra time (or if there was a chance of failing) he would definitely take the writer for non-maths exams. At least you have some time to work through the options and let him decide what he wants to do.

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1 hour ago, lewelma said:

I have no idea.  The disability office at the local uni said 10 minutes extra per hour, and he said it was the same at Canterbury. But sounds like I need to call them directly, since Kiwimum is finding that 1.5 time is possible.

Their solution just seems to be to give the kids a writer.  But maybe the people making the decisions have never tried to use a non-mathy writer on an advance math exam. 🙂

I guess technically that’s 16.666... percent but that’s really not enough. I’m surprised they think it is 😕

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3 hours ago, lewelma said:

Their solution just seems to be to give the kids a writer.  But maybe the people making the decisions have never tried to use a non-mathy writer on an advance math exam. 🙂

This is literally 90% of what I do.  I prompt my students and they tell me out loud the next step and I write it out for them on our shared whiteboard.  It actually seems like a great solution.

4 hours ago, lewelma said:

He is very good with keyboard shortcuts, but using a mouse to click on special math characters on a ribbon would be incredibly frustrating to him.

You should be able to find a Latex editor that doesn't require a mouse.  The AoPS environment is almost entirely text-based.  The tricky part is that much of the typing is using keys in the upper right of the keyboard, using the right hand pinkie and ring finger often using the shift key which is left hand pinkie of course.  Not a favorite way to type, but doable with practice.

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Microsoft word has a decent equation tool. Use the “insert” menu and click on “equation”.  I use this to create problem sets for my math classes and it works pretty well, it can just take a bit of time, especially if you have a lot of fractions/exponents/parentheses.

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