MathML (Mathematical Markup Language) is a W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommendation of a markup language for displaying both mathematical structure as well as content, or meaning. JAWS and Fusion provide spoken, natural language descriptions of MathML equations, using the same terms a teacher would use to explain them in a classroom. This enables students to read and study math problems contained in web pages using both speech and braille.

JAWS supports reading math content in Chrome, Edge Chromium, Firefox, and Internet Explorer that is created using MathML without the need to install any additional third-party software applications or plugins. Everything happens on the developer side. Visit the W3 website to learn more about MathML and the tools used to add it to web pages.

If a refreshable braille display is connected, JAWS also shows math expressions on the display using the Nemeth Braille code, a widely used system for reading math in braille. Since Nemeth Braille is exclusive to English, make sure JAWS is configured for one of the English contracted braille output modes by doing the following:

  1. Press INSERT+6 on the number row to open Settings Center.
  2. To apply changes to all applications, press CTRL+SHIFT+D to load the JAWS default settings. To apply changes to a specific application, select it from the Applications combo box.
  3. In the Search edit box, type "Translation" without the quotes.
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to move to Translation in the filtered search results in the tree view and press ENTER to move focus to the Translation group. Press RIGHT ARROW to expand the group.
  5. In the Language combo box, make sure English – United States is selected.
  6. In the Output combo box, make sure one of the Grade 1 or Grade 2 options is selected.
  7. Select OK to save your changes and close Settings Center.

Tip: If you are using a Freedom Scientific Focus Blue braille display, you can press DOTS 1-2-4-5-7-8 CHORD to quickly switch to contracted braille.

Actively Explore Math Content with JAWS

When you encounter MathML on a web page, JAWS describes the equation, followed by the message "math content." If you are using a braille display and JAWS is configured for Contracted Braille, the message "Math" is displayed followed by the expression. If the expression is too long to fit on the display, you can use the panning buttons on your display to view the rest of it. Otherwise, if JAWS is set for Computer Braille, the message "Math" is displayed followed by a message stating that Contracted Braille must be enabled to view math content.

Pressing ENTER while focused on the math content opens the JAWS Math Viewer where you can study the equation in greater detail by doing the following:

Our goal with JAWS math support is to allow you to navigate the math content by logically grouped elements. For example, a fraction consists of a numerator and a denominator. Both the numerator and denominator may consist of sub-expressions. We give you the ability to navigate between the numerator and the denominator, and then by sub-expression if desired.

Description of Math Equations by JAWS

We want the screen reader's description of a given equation to be as close to what a teacher would say in a classroom as possible. For example, x2/-y could accurately be described as, "x to the power of 2 divided by minus y," but a teacher might say "x squared over negative y."

x 2 / - y

Practice with More Examples

EXERCISE: Follow the steps below to explore the quadratic formula example on the MathML examples page.

MathML examples page Opens a new window

  1. First, navigate to the line where the quadratic formula is. When you hear JAWS announce "math content," press ENTER to open the JAWS Math Viewer.
  2. Press the JAWS Say Line keystroke, INSERT+UP ARROW. JAWS reads the entire formula.
  3. Press LEFT and RIGHT ARROW to move to the different subcomponents at the current level. Beginning at the left, you should hear the following, each separately:
  4. Press DOWN ARROW to move to the numerator subcomponent. JAWS reads the following:
  5. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the denominator subcomponent. JAWS reads the following:
  6. Press LEFT ARROW to move back to the numerator part of the expression, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponents within the numerator. JAWS reads the following:
  7. Press RIGHT ARROW to move through the different subcomponents of the numerator. JAWS reads the following:
  8. Press DOWN ARROW to explore the subcomponents at the next level. JAWS reads the following:
  9. Press RIGHT ARROW to move through the different parts of the expression. JAWS reads the following:
  10. Press LEFT ARROW to move back to the first part of the expression, b squared, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponents at the next level.
  11. Press LEFT and RIGHT ARROW to read them. JAWS reads them separately as follows:
  12. Press UP ARROW to move out of the subcomponents back to the prior level. JAWS says b squared.
  13. Press RIGHT ARROW to move to the right until JAWS says 4 a c, and then press DOWN ARROW to move to the subcomponent level for this part of the expression. JAWS says 4.
  14. Press RIGHT ARROW to explore and notice JAWS speaks the following items: a c

If you are sighted, you should see the contents of the Math Viewer displayed visually on the screen. As the equation is navigated, the current expression or partial expression is highlighted so a sighted teacher can easily tell what part of the expression is being spoken.

If you are using a braille display, notice that the entire equation remains on the display as you use the ARROW keys to explore it. However, the cursor (dots 7 and 8) moves to the start of the partial expression that gains focus. Pressing a Cursor Router over a term in the equation immediately moves the cursor to the specific location and causes JAWS to speak and visually highlight the partial expression as if you moved to it with the ARROW keys.

When you finish exploring with the ARROW keys and the keystrokes for say character, say word, and say line, press UP ARROW to move back to the main level. Press ESC to close the Math Viewer when you are finished.

Feel free to continue to explore some of the other math equations and expressions on the sample page with JAWS. When you are finished, don't forget to close any open instances of the Math Viewer with either ESC or ALT+F4, and close the sample page with CTRL+F4 as well.