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Southampton’s innovative STEMReader tool released to the public

Published: 
1 March 2016
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A trial version of Southampton’s innovative STEMReader project is being released to the public.

STEMReader was developed by academics in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton and aims to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects more accessible for students with print impairments such as specific learning difficulties, visual impairments or dyslexia.

The software tool assists with reading aloud and comprehending mathematical symbols and notation and was produced by ECS following the award of funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

Project leader Professor Mike Wald of the Web and Internet Science research group said: “Thanks to the BIS funding we have been able to develop our idea from concept to prototype, and now we are looking forward to releasing a trial version to the public and getting their feedback on how we can improve the software even further.”

Currently there are up to 10 million people in the UK that are estimated to be affected by print disabilities or dyscalculia, and these people can face barriers to reading and comprehending maths. Access to a tool that reads aloud mathematical symbols can help with coping strategies when manipulating maths concepts.

Mike said: “It is extremely difficult for a student with a print impairment to read aloud maths notation using a computer or mobile device.

“STEMReader enables students to open, reformat into large fonts, and hear aloud maths content. This tool is a significant step forward in reading aloud maths for learners at all levels, from basics, to people in the workplace, to students at university.”

The project team has been working closely with schools, colleges and university students across the UK, as well as those in the workplace, to help design and tailor STEMReader and ensure it is a truly effective tool.

Now they are hoping to widen their feedback by opening up the trial to the general public as well as other schools and colleges.

“Having the input of more than 30 potential users and their tutors has been vital in helping us make a tool that will aid learning and accessing maths in the future, but we are keen to engage with other users and get their views about how the software works and how we could improve it,” added Mike.

The trial will run until the end of April when ECS plans to release a free version and a premium version of the STEMReader software.

The free version is aimed at people studying maths up to GCSE level, while the premium version is aimed at higher level students.

To download the free STEMReader trial or to find out more about the project visit www.stemreader.org.uk

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