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Re: MathML and simple maths content


From: Mallory
Date: Jun 1, 2019 2:14AM


When I was working in education, while we tried to do everything possible
in MathML, what most simpler math students wanted and needed was the
so-called ASCII math. Similar to what you'd type. We did this with MathJax,
which was pretty heavy for phone CPUs. Iphones were not happy with
long pages of equations (which is why everyone would love not to need
MathJax, including the creators).

It's this ASCII math that our alt text was made out of most of the time. It's
good to have an instruction telling students to up their verbosity, so they
are more likely to hear something like
−4 + −2 = −6

With lower verbosity levels, many symbols get ignored.

Our alt text switched to words once you got to phrases like "square root of".

As someone mentioned earlier, the alt text is a firehose. It cannot be
inspected by the student bit by bit, so alt text was not recommended for
larger in-depth formulas unless the formula itself was being presented in
bits (which we had a lot of, showing how to reduce fractions or simple
algebra steps).

For things like PowerPoint (which are unfortunately very popular), the
creators needed to use MathType to render the equations, while students
were required to purchase MathType for $99 (special academic price).
Normally, for web, the free MathPlayer was enough, but for MathML to be
rendered in something using OLE's like PowerPoint, the student needed the
full MathType (and not Lite, which was the fallback after the 30-day free
trial). Or, this was the state of things a few years ago-- DS/Wiris may have
been working on making the Lite support MathML in OLEs after version 4.

Btw, this is now WIRIS, they've bought or teamed up withDesignScience,
makers of MathPlayer (which btw worked pretty well with
NVDA+Firefox for many years. Chrome never worked as at the time it had
zero support for MathML. For Edge, MathML support is a top voted request
request on UserVoice, a place where people can vote for features:

You'll need a combination of MathML and a kind of alt text/ASCII math for
math under Algebra 1 or 2... once you get around that level or higher, MathML
breaks down. Technically, the spec could probably handle it, but apparently
it gets very complicated very fast and even browsers who want to support
it run into trouble quickly. MathJax was still being used heavily but above
certain math levels it too started having bugs displaying or describing more
complex formulas. Quadratic formulas kind of things.

For higher math, today it seems the only thing that always works all the time,
allowing not only students to read math but also to write and format it so
that teachers and fellow students can read it as well, is LaTeX. It always works,
but it's verbose, and requires both student and teacher to know it.

For Braille support, Sam Dooley did make an online math palette thing which
can switch between displaying rendered math (via content MathML, which then
presented on the web page as presentational MathML) and Braille.
I'm not sure what the status of this is right now, and of course it's only for the
issue of Braille, but it might be nice to know it exists if you're dealing with
Braille users and doing that 3-day turnaround thing where someone prints
it, someone reads it, results sent back thing.

I had no idea Brian was working at Igalia or that Igalia was working with the
chromium team. This is fantastic news. I keep hearing rumours of the death
of MathML due to the lack of support in browsers. I think the SR vendors can
only really correctly read math once browsers are all exposing it in generally
the same way. But I don't know the solution for when math starts getting
difficult/complex and the world stops agreeing on how certain things should
be written or spoken out loud. Most students say they'd prefer they hear math
the same way teachers and classmates speak it, but there are global
and even regional differences (I don't know the details of this, I've heard this
from blind math whizzes).


On Thu, May 30, 2019, at 12:02 PM, Isabel Holdsworth wrote:
> Thanks Brian. This sounds reasonably encouraging.
> On 29/05/2019, Brian Kardell < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
> > On Wed, May 29, 2019 at 9:29 AM Birkir R. Gunnarsson <
> > <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:
> >
> >> MathML support is spotty/inconsistent and sometimes downright missing.
> >> Kepe inmind that IE11 is eventually going to g away, probably in a
> >> matter of years, so we, as a community must focus on
> >> Chrome/Firefox/Edge (which will run on Chomium).
> >>
> >
> > I'd like to add to this that mathml has a complex history and suffered a
> > series of very unfortunate events which I wrote about on my blog
> > https://bkardell.com/blog/Math.html, if you are interested in the context
> > around this, including the current state an efforts.
> >
> > To sum up a TL;DR of the current state:
> >
> > My organization, Igalia, contributes (in the code sense) to all of the
> > browsers and has been working with Chrome developers for a few years to
> > work out some kind of proposal. There was some general agreement of a
> > plan. We began a fundraising campaign https://mathml.igalia.com/. We
> > received initial funding from the NISO through a grant from the Alfred P
> > Sloan Foundation. This plan was sent for review to the W3C's Technical
> > Architecture Group (https://github.com/w3ctag/design-reviews/issues/313),
> > and feedback seems positive. There is an active community group doing all
> > of the necessary spec work and hard decisions involved in the plan
> > https://mathml-refresh.github.io/ . Part of this work is to ensure
> > interoperability between implementations as well. Our implementation of
> > this work in Chrome is making good progress as you can see here
> > https://mathml.igalia.com/news/2019/05/03/igalia-is-making-good-progress/#new,
> > and we would love for more people and organizations to be involved. If
> > you, or your organization thinks this is important work and would like to
> > chat about how you can help, feel free to reach out.
> >
> >
> >
> > --
> > Brian Kardell :: @briankardell :: bkardell.com
> > > > > > > > > >
> > > > >