Reading Mathematical Symbols Online

For someone who is sighted, reading a symbol such as \(a^2 + b^2 = c^2\) [1] is easy, however, I've discovered that some screen-readers are failing to read these symbols. This post is there to help such visitors with how to have your screen-reader do just that without any issues.

The Problem

Screen-readers are supposed to be able to read any text that is on the screen, whether online or not. The text that shouldn't be read automatically are graphics or text that is scanned.

However, on certain sites, including this one, nowadays one find that there are some lines or blocks that cannot be read. These often represent some mathematical or scientific formulas. These may be important in one's studies or researches. How can one access these? Does it mean that the screen-reader is failing in some respect?

The Solution

If you are on Windows, make sure that you are running a screen-reader like NVDA or JAWS in the latest version.

Next, download this free utility called MathPlayer and install it. This is a small file and will not take much space on your hard drive.

And you are done. Doing just that will make your screen-reader be able to read mathematical symbols on any web page you visit.

In case you want to analyse and study a formula you are reading, just move to the line with the formula. Press the ENTER key on the line. IN NVDA, you will be able to use your down arrow key to drill down to the math expression and study it. For example, this is the formula for standard deviation used in statistics:

\begin{equation*} \sigma = \sqrt {\mu _2 } \end{equation*}

If you are using a Braille display, you will be able to read the Maths output on your display in the notation you set as your preference.

I hope you will find this helpful not only for accessing this site, but even for your researches and studies as well.


[1] This is the Pythagorean equation that is used to solve right-angled triangles.