Sculptures Help Teach Math

In what could be a boon for kids with visual disabilities, researchers at the University of Illinois are creating innovative teaching tools that are expected to help the children learn mathematics more easily - and perhaps multiply their career opportunities by the time they reach adulthood.

Sheila Schneider, who is a senior and the first student who is legally blind to major in sculpture in the School of Art+Design within the College of Fine and Applied Arts at Illinois, is creating a series of small sculptures with mathematical equations imprinted on them in Braille that will be used to help children with visual impairments learn mathematics.

The equations will be written in Nemeth Code, a form of Braille used for mathematical and scientific symbols.

Schneider sculpted six models, each a few inches in diameter, from cubes of balsa foam.

The models are being translated into three-dimensional computer images to finalize the shapes and position the equations before the sculptures are cast from bronze, a durable material that can withstand extensive handling and occasionally being dropped.

Once the sculptures have been cast, the next step will be to have children with visual impairments and their teachers use them in math instruction to assess the sculptures' efficacy as teaching tools.

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