Inclusive Math Part2, Mathematics using the LaTeX autocorrect editor!

Welcome to part 2!

Today, we’re going to explore the all-new ‘Microsoft Word – AutoCorrect LaTeX’ editor’

In brief, LaTeX is a language used far and wide as a convention to represent mathematical notations by use of the English language. Most symbol correspond to a textual code representation, which is then typecast into various forms as per necessary. To know more, check the following link out:

https://www.latex-project.org/about/

With that out of the way…

First, what we need:

  1. Part1 (recommended)

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6TcHrCakbE&t=40s

Text: https://aarushbhat.wordpress.com/2021/08/01/the-inclusive-math-series-part-1-writing-basic-math-in-ms-word-with-nvda/

  • A screen reader of your choice (jaws performs slightly better here, but perfectly usable with Nvda)
  • Microsoft office word (2019 recommended, for lower versions such as office 365, you need to enable math auto-correct in proofing settings)

If you’re using jaws, you’re pretty much good to go. If you’re preferred choice is Nvda however, there are a few simple steps that you need to perform to have it read the things we are going to do:

  1. Navigate to the Nvda menu by pressing(insert+n) on your keyboard. Your screen reader should say ‘NVDA Menu’
  2. Scroll down with the down arrow key till you find preferences sub menu, and hit right arrow to enter the menu.
  3. Find settings, and hit enter on it. It should usually be the first option itself, so simply try hitting down once.
  4. Scroll down in this menu till you find the advanced tab. It should be somewhere near the bottom.  Alternatively, use first letter navigation (repeatedly press ‘a’ on your keyboard until you find advanced)
  5. Tab once, you should hear ‘I understand that changing these settings may cause NVDA to function incorrectly.  check box not checked’ Check it, and start tabbing until you find the following option:

‘Use UI Automation to access Microsoft Word document controls when available check box not checked Alt+w’

  • Check that with the spacebar, tab or shift tab till you find apply, then ok, and exit out of the menu.

That’s all! You are now ready to start using the equation editor.

What I’d like you to do now is open a blank word document.

Once you have done this, press and hold the ‘Alt’ key on your keyboard, and then press equals.

You should hear something like, ‘selected.’ Or, ‘equation.’

This is the equation editor, where we will be able to write LaTeX and have them converted into readable (and visually pleasing) equations with the press of a single key.

Let us start out simple. What if we wanted to represent the Greek letter ‘alpha’?

What we need to do is type out the LaTeX code for alpha which, rather conveniently is the character (\) followed by the word alpha, without spaces. Try it out, and then press space once you’re done to convert it.

Voila!

If everything worked as expected, you should now have a proper, alpha symbol on your screen, read out quite clearly by your screen reader.

Great. Let’s try out some more symbols. Can you guess what the representation for ‘beta’ would be?

That’s right, (\) followed by the word, beta.

Try this out as well.

Looking good. Let us now try to write something slightly more complicated. Try the following equation out. Please do not paste it in your document, because it would for one not convert properly and for another, wouldn’t’ really help because we’re all learning here!

\alpha +\beta =x

Read this character by character, and take a listen to the result that you get.

If it converted fine then you should hear exactly what you typed, alpha+beta=x.

I advise you to also go through these equations character by character or using other standard navigation keys instead of simply reading them as one line. You would want to get comfortable playing around in here once you start writing much bigger and complex equations. It takes a while to get used to sure, but it is perfectly doable!

I would like you now to experiment with this new toy, so to speak, and once you feel slightly more comfortable working with it, come back to read this further. You can take help of the following reference link to try out new symbols:

Now then, it is time to start messing with something that I stressed on you having a firm hand on quite a bit in the previous part, brackets.

Let us first start out by writing the following equation:

a+b/c

Hit enter or space, and try to read it. You should hear something like this:

‘link    Equation  a. plus b over c’

Quite self-explanatory, and as a matter of fact, much more so than the plane text method that we were adopting before.

A is a variable, which is added to b over c, which is a fraction on its own.

Recall us doing a similar problem in part1, where the challenge was to differentiate when the denominator was above a single term or multiple ones. We as you may have guessed, used brackets.

Try rephrasing your equation now, like so:

(a+b)/c

You should hear something like:

‘link    Equation  numerator , a. plus b end numerator , over c’

Wonderful. I’m sure you are able to tell the difference there. It considers the entire a+b to be the numerator now, thanks to a simple change of us inserting brackets in the right place.

Consider a case where we wanted to not just have a term in the denominator in the equation above, but multiple. Say a d added to the c there. How would we go about that? I’ll leave that one up to you guys to figure out.

That’s… pretty much all! Using this tutorial to get you started, plus the resource I linked to above, you should be ready to take on complicated mathematical equations in no time. As I said above, start experimenting with these. Try writing a fairly long and complicated equation, and listen to how it sounds. You would want to train your brain to instinctively recognise the speech patterns, in order to comprehend the equations faster and be much more fluent while you work. Try something like this:

[x\times {y+3(8-\sqrt z)/(8+ \sqrt z)}]

Listen to how this one sounds, and construct your very own. Here’s a few tips that might come in handy:

  1. You will go wrong initially, may end up writing something completely different from what you intend to, or might not even find the symbols that you’re looking for as easily. It is completely natural; the key is to be patient and ask for help where ever necessary.
  2. Have people who can see your screen take a look at what you’re doing – I can’t stress this one enough, at least until you get used to the notion of writing math this way and are able to represent yourself in a satisfactory enough manner, have people look at the work you’re doing, to make sure that what you’re writing is what you mean to write. It is quite possible that minor things might occur which you may not notice at first, such as 2^x+1 having the entire x+1 as superscript and not just x, in which case you might need brackets, etc. In addition, in case there is a symbol that you are unable to locate in the website I provided above, hit the hotkey (Alt equals) to pop up the equation field and call someone sited over. Ask them to look around with the mouse, just like the insert menu in word, a list of symbols that could be inserted into the field show up which can be added by clicking on them. However, if you ask them to hover their mouse over said symbol, it is not only read out by the screen-reader but its LaTeX code is as well, which you could then note down and memorise, and start using that symbol without anybody’s help next time onwards!

        That’s all there is to it. I hope this post comes in handy, and feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments section. If you like it, then share it around, and check out my video tutorial for the same, if listening is what you prefer.

Click here to do that.

Stay safe.

Stay inclusive.

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