What is MathML?
MathML is a way of coding equations so they display correctly on a screen and are also navigable with assistive technology such as screen readers and text-to-speech software.
Because not all browsers are able to display MathML natively, you can also use MathJax to display MathML, providing the widest possible compatibility with browsers and assistive technologies.
Video: Accessible Equations
Why Use MathML?
Why Not Images?
Most symbols in STEM fields are presented as images. Images of equations cause several problems:
- Screen readers can’t read images without alternative text
- Can be difficult to process and cumbersome to repeat
- May not be detailed enough to differentiate similar equations
- Text-to-speech software only reads the text surrounding images, so equations will be skipped
- When images are magnified, the quality is reduced to the point where symbols may become unreadable
Why Not LaTeX?
Many math instructors have already gone a step further than using images for equations and are coding math using LaTeX. This is a step in the right direction!
However, LaTeX is not natively accessible to assistive technology. It was designed for print distribution, not electronic. It needs to be converted to MathML or MathJax (a wrapper for MathML) in order for screen readers and other technology to be able to read it.
Luckily, there are software options for converting LaTeX to MathML, so if you prefer to work in LaTeX you can continue to do so. Just add another step to your workflow for converting to MathML.
Benefits of MathML
- A variety of technologies can access the code, including screen readers and text-to-speech software
- Students can write in MathML using voice recognition software
- Students can go through an equation at their own pace, repeating sections as needed to fully comprehend it.
The following video shows how students can navigate and study equations in greater depth when formatted in MathML.