Symbol Dictionary

The STEMReader Symbol dictionary is designed as a reference for how to read aloud individual symbols and how to encode these symbols within web pages and electronic materials. Definitions are also provided for some symbols. Use the button below to open the dictionary in a new tab.

Open Symbol Dictionary

This database is published under a Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 licence so you can use the contents in your own work as long as you acknowledged that you have sourced it from the STEMReader symbol dictionary.

Why did we create the STEMReader symbol dictionary?

As we developed STEMReader, we reviewed many web pages and electronic resources. We found that symbols could be encoded within text or equations using different systems – unicode, xml-entities and LaTeX being the most commonly used (or an example of how many ways a symbols could be , look at Wikipaedia’s page on Omega). This causes a problem for screen readers and text to speech programs like STEMReader as each possible way of encoding one symbol needs to be know to the speech tool. As there was no resources linking the read aloud definition and encoding options, we created our own.

I want to create accessible maths. How should I encode my maths?

For maths equations to be accessible maths they need to be published in MathML format or in a format that will allow users to convert them to MathML. For web pages, the MathJax JavaScript library allows you to add equations to website using either MathML or LaTeX. Equations created within Word *.docx documents can also be accessed as MathML. At this time PDF does not provide support for accessible maths notation.

If you need to insert a symbol within text or in an equation, then use unicode to encode it. This ensures that your equations will always appear in the same format if copied between application and are more widely support by assistive technologies than xml entities.

Why does the dictionary separate out symbols by language and domains?

One of the complexities for making maths notation accessible through speech is that the same graphical symbol can have a different name and meaning depending on the type of maths domain you are working in. For example, the decimal point is used as in many countries to differentiate between whole and parts of a number (e.g. 10.5) but in the domain of Logic, it can mean AND.

screenshot with 2 definitions from the dsymbol dictionary for the full stop symbol.

Some symbols can also also have multiple names but mean the same thing mathematically. Countries that share a language can use different conventions when it comes to have to read aloud maths. This is why we have written rules on how to read aloud maths notation (i.e. when you combine symbols into an equations) for the UK education system. We have built the symbol dictionary so that entries can have different meanings and names to be read aloud by language although at the moment it only contains entries for the UK.

The entry I was looking for is missing, can I add to the symbol dictionary?

We are still uploading content to the dictionary but are looking for any assistance it populating it. Please use our contact form to send us content you think we should add.

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