EquatIO: reimagining math in a UDL world

Named as one of this 2018's EdTech50 leaders, our CTO Martin McKay explains how EquatIO brings a UDL mindset to mathematics and STEM teaching.

Headshot of Texthelp CTO, Martin McKay

“UDL has been around since the 1990s. But it’s been implemented primarily as a framework of strategies and tools to help with the teaching and learning of text-based digital content. Inevitably, UDL has found an audience with English, humanities and related subjects – and as a result math and STEM subjects have been left behind.

UDL is all about finding multiple means of representing and expressing content to suit every learner’s personal needs. So at Texthelp we asked ourselves the question “how can we apply this insight to math and science in today’s classrooms, where pupils and teachers are working electronically with Google Docs, Sheets and Word documents?”

Today’s students are looking for better, easier ways to create and share mathematical material. And that’s what we’ve done with EquatIO. There are already digital solutions out there for creating math, but they rely on fiddly coding and they’re far from intuitive.  If you’re writing a blog you don’t have to know HTML. Why shouldn’t writing math be just as painless?

Lowering barriers

The biggest obstacle to creating math digitally is the keyboard on your laptop or tablet. It’s a struggle writing even quite basic expressions like “the square root of x over 4y”. So with EquatIO our goal was to offer much more natural, intuitive ways to interact with your device.

If you’ve got a touchscreen, EquatIO instantly recognises your handwriting and turns it into accurately-formatted, editable notation. It can anticipate what you’re trying to write, much like predictive texting on your phone. And if you’re using a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen, EquatIO’s speech input understands the spoken word accurately and intelligently.

And what about that other input device that’s in everyone’s pocket – their smartphone? Our new mobile app lets students and teachers scribble an expression on paper. Snap it with your phone’s camera, and it magically appears in your EquatIO workspace, ready to edit however you wish.

Universal Design for Learning is all about lowering barriers to learning. And with EquatIO, we’re giving students the tools to engage actively with mathematics in the way that suits them best.”

See the full programme of speakers and activities at this year’s UDL-IRN Summit 2018 here.