How can principles of universal design be applied to technology-based math content?

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Applying universal design principles results in products and environments that are usable by most people without having to make special adaptations. Universal design applied to educational environments, especially when technology is involved, is referred to by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) as Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL promotes the design of learning experiences that can be effective for students with a wide variety of characteristics, including disabilities. UDL products use flexible, multiple approaches to meet the needs of diverse learners.

UDL principles can be applied to the design of mathematical content delivered using instructional technology as demonstrated in the examples that follow:

  • Multiple means of representation—Universally designed content gives learners various ways of rendering math. Some students need visual access or speech output, while others may need Braille output. An electronic format like Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) provides all of these options from the same source file.
  • Multiple means of expression—Universally designed presentations provide learners with alternatives for demonstrating what they know. For instance, some students may be best suited to complete math assignments with voice input technology, while others may prefer to using a graphical system with a mouse or track ball. An ideal system is usable by all students, who may or may not use assistive technology.
  • Multiple means of engagement—Universally designed activities tap into the interests of diverse learners, offer challenges at a variety of levels, and appeal to girls and boys and to those from different cultures.

For more information on universal design and accessible math, consult the following DO-IT Knowledge Base articles: How can universal design be applied to instruction?, What is universal design?, and What is MathML?.

Additional resources for applying universal design in educational settings can be found at the Center for Universal Design in Education.

Last update or review: January 22, 2013