Psych to physics: transcribers’ hurdles with Math Mode

Transcribers, have you ever turned down an assignment because you were intimidated by the class subject? Much like students, transcribers are naturally inclined to take on subjects that they have experience and expertise in. Due to the requirements of the job, transcribers are apt to have strong language skills, which can sometimes mean less confidence in areas such as math. Fortunately, TypeWell Transcribers have Math Mode on their side, which allows for effective presentation of formulas and equations, even when the equation is advanced beyond the transcriber’s computational abilities!

During the Basic Skills Course, new trainees are told to avoid transcribing math classes until they’re more established, and for good reason! It’s essential that new transcribers get comfortable with the foundations learned in training before taking on more advanced styles of transcribing. Unfortunately, this sometimes creates a mental barrier that makes even stellar transcribers feel intimidated by Math Mode well into their career. All too often, I hear that transcribers “prefer not” to transcribe math because it’s not their “strong suit.” But, math courses are required for all students, so don’t we owe it to the people we serve to strive toward providing effective communication access in all classes?

I learned Math Mode before the Math Mode Basics LEO (online learning management platform) course existed. I printed out the entire training document available through TypeWell and put it into a binder. First, I read through it. I was delighted to find out that it was very intuitive; I didn’t need to understand math or be able to solve the equations myself to be an effective transcriber in the subject. It’s often as simple as transcribing what you hear.  With a few learned abbreviations, the appropriate symbols appear. Even better, commonly occurring equations or formulas can be added directly into the Math PAL (Personal Abbreviation List) so “/quad” will expand to the entire, properly formatted quadratic formula right before the student’s eyes. How cool is that?

When the Math Mode Basics LEO course became available, I quickly enrolled. The course was tremendously useful, as it gave considerable practice in what was, for me, the hardest part about using Math Mode — switching between Math Mode and regular transcription mode. It also walked me through everything I had learned in my self-training and reinforced the techniques for quickly getting the correct formatting, even for the most advanced symbols and equations.

My recommendation to transcribers new to Math Mode is to use all resources available. Some resources are given to us by TypeWell and some need to be sought out. There are countless math tutor sites online transcribers can access for free training materials based on the type of math class they’re going to be taking on. These sites allow transcribers to receive a crash course on terminology and formulas that are likely to come up in a given math class. A few resources I recommend are and Paul’s Online Math Notes; both sites contain beneficial information to prep for math classes.

As TypeWell Transcribers, we have the responsibility to make sure we are regularly continuing our education to better our skills. This duty involves taking time out of our day to not only stay sharp, but to broaden our abilities. Being a proficient math transcriber doesn’t happen overnight, or by transcribing years of English and humanities courses. It takes time, willingness to take on a new challenge, and effort to learn new skills so we can serve our students in everything from Psych to Physics.

(Article written by Christy Hack, Intellitext Operations Manager)