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Creating Accessible Math with MathML

Illustration of a person with headphones and math symbols around them

Use MathML to represent mathematical notation as markup or code rather than images. This is important for accessibility because your learners with low vision can resize the math content without any loss of quality when it is stored as markup. MathML also provides benefits for screen reader users. They can navigate and review the parts of each expression in the correct order, which is important for understanding complex mathematical notation.

The most current version of MathML is MathML 3. A June 2012 letter from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) specifically encourages State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Local Education Agencies(LEAs) to "ask publishers to use the MathML3 Structure Guidelines recommended by the [NIMAS] Center when requesting NIMAS files."

MathJax

Unfortunately, not all web browsers support the accurate rendering of MathML. MathJax is set of open-source JavaScript libraries for correctly displaying MathML content across browsers that do not natively support MathML.

Getting started with MathJax is easy. All you need to do is include the following snippet of code to the HEAD section of an HTML document:

<script type="text/javascript"

src="http://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/mathjax/2.7.0/MathJax.js?config=TeX-AMS-MML_HTMLorMML">

</script>

Once you have added the call to MathJax in the HEAD section of your document, you can insert MathML code enclosed in <math> and </math> tags. The default is for the MathML to be displayed in-line, but you can use an optional attribute (display="block") to place the expression on its own line. As a best practice, make sure to include a namespace attribute (xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1998/Math/MathML") for the <math> tag.

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