6.1: Review of Dots and Boxes Model

Let’s start with a quick review of place value, different bases, and our “Dots & Boxes” model for thinking about these ideas.

The 1←2 Rule

Whenever there are two dots in single box, they “explode,” disappear, and become one dot in the box to the left.

Example: Nine dots 1←2 in the system

We start by placing nine dots in the rightmost box.

Two dots in that box explode and become one dot in the box to the left.

Once again, two dots in that box explode and become one dot in the box to the left.

We do it again!

Hey, now we have more than two dots in the second box, so those can explode and move!

And the rightmost box still has more than two dots.

Keep going, until no box has two dots.

After all this, reading from left to right we are left with one dot, followed by zero dots, zero dots, and one final dot.


The 2←1 code for nine dots is: 1001.

The 1←3 Rule

Whenever there are three dots in single box, they “explode,” disappear, and become one dot in the box to the left.

Example: Fifteen dots in the 1←3 system

Here’s what happens with fifteen dots:


The 1←3 code for fifteen dots is: 120.


Recall that numbers written in the 1←2 system are called binary or base two numbers.

Numbers written in the 1←3 system are called base three numbers.

Numbers written in the 1←4 system are called base four numbers.

Numbers written in the 1←10 system are called base ten numbers.

In general, numbers written in the 1←b system are called base b numbers.

In a base b number system, each place represents a power of b, which means (b^{n}) for some whole number n. Remember this means b multiplied by itself n times:

  • The right-most place is the units or ones place. (Why is this a power of b?)
  • The second spot is the “b” place. (In base ten, it’s the tens place.)
  • The third spot is the “(b^{2})” place. (In base ten, that’s the hundreds place. Note that (10^{2} = 100).)
  • The fourth spot is the “(b^{3})” place. (In base ten, that’s the thousands place, since (10^{3} = 1000).)
  • And so on.


Whenever we’re dealing with numbers written in different bases, we use a subscript to indicate the base so that there can be no confusion. So:

  • (102_{three}) is a base three number (read it as “one-zero-two base three”). This is the base three code for the number eleven.
  • (222_{four}) is a base four number (read it as “two-two-two base four”). This is the base four code for the number forty-two.
  • (54321_{ten}) is a base ten number. (It’s ok to say “fifty-four thousand three hundred and twenty-one.” Why?)

If the base is not written, we assume it’s base ten.

Remember: when you see the subscript, you are seeing the code for some number of dots.

Think / Pair / Share

Work through the two examples above carefully to be sure you remember and understand how the “Dots & Boxes” model works. Then answer these questions:

  • When we write 9 in base 2, why do we write (1001_{two}) instead of just (11_{two})?
  • When we write 15 in base 3, why do we write (120_{three}) instead of just (12_{three})?
  • How many different digits do you need in a base 7 system? In a base 12 system? In a base b system? How do you know?

On Your Own

Work on the following exercises on your own or with a partner.

  1. In base 4, four dots in one box are worth one dot in the box one place to the left.
    1. What is the value of each box?
    2. How do you write (29_{ten}) in base 4?
    3. How do you write (132_{four}) in base 10?
  2. In our familiar base ten system, ten dots in one box are worth one dot in the box one place to the left.
    1. What is the value of each box?
    2. When we write the base ten number 7842:
      • What quantity does the “7” represent?
      • The “4” is four groups of what value?
      • The “8” is eight groups of what value?
      • The “2” is two groups of what value?
  3. Write the following numbers of dots in base two, base three, base five, and base eight. Draw the “Dots & Boxes” model if it helps you remember how to do this! (Note: these numbers are all written in base ten. When we don’t say otherwise, you should assume base ten.) $$(a); 2 qquad (b); 17 qquad (c); 27 qquad (d); 63 ldotp$$
  4. Convert these numbers to our more familiar base ten system. Draw out dots and boxes and “unexplode” the dots if it helps you remember. $$(a); 1101_{two} qquad (b); 102_{three} qquad (c); 24_{five} qquad (d); 24_{nine} ldotp$$

Think / Pair / Share

Quickly compute each of the following. Write your answer in the same base as the problem.

  • (131_{ten}) times ten.
  • (263207_{eight}) times eight.
  • (563872_{nine}) times nine.
  • Use the 1←10 system to explain why multiplying a whole number in base ten by ten results in simply appending a zero to the right end of the number.
  • Suppose you have a whole number written in base b. What is the effect of multiplying that number by b? Justify what you say.

Treatment outcomes for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis under DOTS-Plus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies

Background: Anti-tuberculosis drug resistance is a major public health problem that threatens the progress made in tuberculosis care and control worldwide. Treatment success rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a key issue that cannot be ignored. There is a paucity of evidence that assessed studies on the treatment of MDR-TB, which focus on the effectiveness of the directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS)-Plus program. Therefore, it is crucial to assess and summarize the overall treatment outcomes for MDR-TB patients enrolled in the DOTS-Plus program in recent years. The purpose of this study was to thus assess and summarize the available evidence for MDR-TB treatment outcomes under DOTS-Plus.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of published literature was conducted. Original studies were identified using the databases MEDLINE®/PubMed®, Hinari, and Google Scholar. Heterogeneity across studies was assessed using the Cochran's Q test and I 2 statistic. Pooled estimates of treatment outcomes were computed using the random effect model.

Results: Based on the 14 observational studies included in the meta-analysis, it was determined that 5 047 patients reported treatment outcomes. Of these, the pooled prevalence, 63.5% (95% CI: 58.4-68.5%) successfully completed full treatment (cured or treatment completed) with a pooled cure rate of 55.6%, whereas 12.6% (95% CI: 9.0-16.2%) of the patients died, 14.2% (95% CI: 11.6-16.8%) defaulted from therapy, and 7.6% (95% CI: 5.6-9.7%) failed therapy. Overall 35.4% (95% CI: 30-40.8%) of patients had unsuccessful treatment outcomes. An unsatisfactorily high percentage 43% (95% CI: 32-54%) of unsuccessful treatment outcomes was observed among patients who were enrolled in standardized treatment regimens.

Conclusion: This study revealed that patients with MDR-TB exhibited a very low treatment success rate compared to the World Health Organization 2015 target of at least 75 to 90%. The high default rate observed by conducting this literature review could possibly explain the spread of the MDR-TB strain in various populations. A better treatment success rate was observed among patients in individualized treatment regimens than in standardized ones. Conducting further individual-based meta-analysis is recommended to identify potential factors for defaulting treatment using large-scale and multi-center studies.

Keywords: DOTS-Plus Multidrug resistance Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis Treatment outcomes Tuberculosis.

Which Are The Best Home Safes To Buy?

If you’re looking for quick review/highlights of the best home safe, this section is for you. I’ll be putting together an overview of several of the top-rated home safes on the market.

Once you’re done skimming through the summaries of the features of some of the top-rated safes available, you can check out the comparison chart just below. It will help you compare several of the safes to see which is perfect for your needs.

  • Best Home Gun Safe:RELIANCER Electronic Home Gun Safe
    “Carbon-steel construction weighs 7.89 pounds, uses a dual lock, foam-padded interior, scratch-resistant coating, alarm-U.”
  • Best Biometric Safe for Home:TIGERKING Biometric Home Safe
    “Solid steel construction, weighs 24.2 pounds, uses fingerprint plus keypad and manual keys for override, collapsible shelves, can register up to 32 fingerprints.”
  • Best Small Safe for Apartment:SLYPNOS 1.0 Cubic Feet Electronic Home Safe
    “Indicator lights, pre-drilled holes plus mounting hardware, digital with manual override, steel construction, 1.0 cubic feet.”
  • Best Fireproof safe for Cash:SereneLife SLSFE14 Digital Home Safe
    “Corrosion and stain-resistant coating, dual lock system, reinforced solid steel construction, weighs 9.25 pounds, indicator lights, fingerprints.”
  • Best with Key:TIGERKING Double Safety Digital Security Home Safe
    “Six live-locking bolts, weighs 59 pounds, solid steel construction, digital lock plus key override, 2.05 cubic gold, dual alarm system.”
  • Best for Documents:SentrySafe X125 1.2 Cubic Feet Digital Safe
    “Comes with AA alkaline batteries, two live-locking bolts, weighs 27 pounds, 1.2 cubic feet, easy to setup digital keypad.”
  • Best Small Home Safe for Valuables:Honeywell 0.17 Cubic Feet Steel Safe
    “Small but rugged, 7-year warranty, weighs 6.1 pounds, 0.17 cubic feet, digital lock system with 2 keys for manual override.”
  • Best Hotel Safe:Yuanshikj Electronic Home/Office/Hotel Safe for Money/Jewelry
    “Lightweight, digital locking system with key override, reinforced steel, budget-friendly, easy to set up, weighs 5.45 pounds.”

Kimber Micro 9, by Pat Cascio

Many of us, when we were kids, at Christmastime, or on our birthdays, would always look for the biggest present, and open that one first – because we all knew that, the bigger the present, the better the present. Well, I don’t know about other folks, but I’ve learned, as I grew older that, some of the best gifts came in small packages. My first Christmas, with my lovely wife, Mary, in 1979, found us without jobs – no income – and a tiny foot-tall artificial Christmas Tree. And, we agreed that we would only spend $25 on each other’s gift. I got a nice Buck 110 folding knife and I present Mary, with a Timex watch – and we were both extremely pleased with our meager gifts. Needless to say, both gifts came in small packages.

Today, I still believe some of the best gifts, come in the smallest packages, and that leads us to the Kimber Micro 9, 9mm Parabelum handgun. It is one of the smallest 9mm pistols on the market. At first glance, this little gun appears to be a dead-ringer for a 1911 pistol. However, there are changes – out of necessity, to required some of the operating parts to be different from the internals of a regular 1911. One thing the designers at Kimber did was to keep this a single-action trigger pull. However, it isn’t like the 1911, instead of a trigger that moves back and forth, it is hinged and actually pivots upwards just a little bit, but it is still a single-action trigger pull. The ejection port is lowered and flared, so empty brass, as well as loaded rounds will cleanly eject. The extractor is very small. I had some concerns about it – but it works just fine – all the time.

The slide on my Micro 9 is made out of stainless steel, and Kimber has some of the tightest tolerances they could produce on this little 9mm handgun. There is no play between the slide/barrel/frame – none – it is “that” tight. The frames on all of the various Micro 9 frames are manufactured out of Aluminum – doesn’t matter which model you want, it will have a lightweight Aluminum frame. And, on this model, the frame is anodized in a silver color, not quite matching the stainless steel slide.

/>This model Micro 9, has the outstanding 3-dot white sights on the slide – and I still think these are some of the best handgun sights to be had. The slide also has angled serrations on the rear – both sides – of the slide for a sure grip in any weather conditions. The barrel is also made out of stainless steel, to help ward off the elements, and it is only 3.15-inches long – about as short as you can have it, and still have a 100% reliable pistol.

Moving down to the frame, we have a pure 1911 slide stop/release, and thumb safety, up for safe, and down for ready to fire. However it differs from the 1911 models in that, the thumb safety can be applied without a round in the chamber. The magazine release is nicely checkered and very easy to reach without shifting the gun in your hand. The hammer is an oval combat-style. It looks great and works great – never had a misfire. The trigger is made out of aluminum, and the face of it is grooved for a sure purchase on it.

The front strap on the grip is smooth, and I immediately added some skateboard take for a sure hold on the gun. There is no beavertail grip safety – not needed – as the 1911 has. The grips on this model are checkered black rubber – and I’m in the process of trying to decide on a different pair, since this gun is too nice for plain rubber grips. The magazine – it only comes with one, holds 7-rounds and extends below the beveled magazine well, but it matches nicely with its curves – you can purchase a 6-round mag from Kimber, but I like the 7-round magazine – gives your pinky finger something to hold on to – and you really need the extra purchase on this little gun, that only weighs in at 15.6-ounces – we are talking a lightweight EDC pistol.

From the Kimber web site: “Ideal for shooters with small hands, as well as those who insist on mild recoil combined with enough power for concealed carry or home protection, the Micro 9 pistols are the right choice for many applications…” Well, this little gun works with medium-sized and large hands as well, and mild recoil – it’s all in your perception of what “recoil” might be. There is considerable muzzle flip when the gun is fired, even with standard 9mm FMJ ammo, and quite a bit of muzzle flip with +P loads, but you can control it, with practice.

Some of the other specs on this little gem are that it is only 6.1-inches long, but looks shorter. The recoil spring is 11.5-pounds – and there is a full-length recoil spring guide. The gun is 1.06-inches wide, but appears smaller. The stainless steel barrel is ramped – I like that on 1911-style handguns, for a more sure feed of various kinds of ammo. Some Aluminum-framed 1911 style pistols have problems feeding some aggressive bullet styles and they chew up the frames quite a bit – not as bad as it used to be – when frames weren’t heat-treated properly.

The trigger pull is advertised at 7-lbs on all Micro 9 pistols, and I had a terrible time trying to gauge the poundage that it took to trip the hammer, but it seems like 7-pounds is about right – it feels heavier than it actually is. I think Kimber can bring that trigger pull down at least by a pound with a little work. Still the gun was easy to shoot.

I Bought Two

I have a brace of Micro 9 pistols, because I liked the first one so much, I purchased a second one. I’m not going to reveal my purchase price, because it was such a deal – on both guns. However, even if you paid full retail price, it would be a steal-of-a-deal, honestly. My wife liked shooting the Micro 9, but isn’t ready to give up either of her regular carry guns. These days, I’m thinking that, with all the violence we are seeing all across America, that a 7+1 round pistol may not be “enough” to carry, to ward off multiple attacks – even with a spare 7-round magazine on-hand. So, the Kimber Micro 9 is reserved – for the time being, as a back-up piece, in an ankle holster. However, I do have a nice hip holster from Craft Holsters if I elect to make this a regular EDC piece. If you haven’t heard of Craft Holsters, check out their web site, they have some great products at more than fair prices. You will have to wait several weeks for a holster, because they are running behind on meeting demand, but it is worth the wait.

So, all things considered, the Micro 9 is an outstanding little 9mm pistol. I did quite a bit of shooting with it – put 300-rounds down range – plinkin’ at rocks, fallen tree branches and some targets – the gun is just a lot of fun to shoot – other than it takes a little effort to get that 7th round loaded into the magazine – very stout magazine spring.

From the nice folks at Black Hills Ammunition, I had the following ammo on-hand for testing: Their 115-gr FMJ, 115-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP +P, 124-gr JHP, 115-gr Barnes Tac-XP +P and 100-gr HoneyBadger +P loads. I had zero malfunctions with any of the aforementioned ammo – and that’s good news, especially in a micro-sized pistol. Many times smaller semiauto handguns aren’t 100% reliable with a variety of ammo.

The skateboard tape on the front grip strap, really helped anchor the pistol in my hand, especially when doing some rapid-fire shooting – I like to shoot semi. The mainspring housing is checkered, but only partially, but that also helped anchor the gun when shooting it. Of course, the checkered rubber grips also give you something to hold on to as well, but like I said, I’m looking at replacing them, with something nicer – something made out of G-10.

My accuracy testing was done at 15-yards, because of the short barrel and sight length. I rested the gun over a rolled-up sleeping bag, over the hood of my pick-up truck. I don’t use a Ransom Rest, like other gun writers do – they want to wring out the most accuracy from their tests. However, I don’t think that shows the potential of the gun’s practical accuracy when used for self-defense purposes.

/>Kimber says you can use +P ammo in this little gun, and I did – and I would carry +P ammo for self-defense. Now, with that said, I would limit my use of +P ammo for self-defense use – not for target practice. Get some good self-defense ammo, like something JHP or the Black Hills HoneyBadger – that is an all copper solid bullet that is fluted – for self-defense. All of my self-defense pistols are stoked with HoneyBadger ammo – I have a lot of faith in it. Then test that ammo to make sure it functions in your pistol, and load the gun with it – just don’t use it for killing rocks and bottles – it gets very expensive, to say the least.

Best accuracy was with the 124-gr JHP load from Black Hills. If I was doing my part all the time, I was getting groups just below 3-inches, and I think the Micro 9 can do even better with more practice. I did blast some rocks out to 50-yards, and I was hitting where I was aiming – not small rocks, mind you, but bigger-sized rocks. So, this is more than accurate for self-defense use – it will solve your problems.

As I stated, I liked this gun so much, I purchased a second one – but I haven’t broken it in, yet! If you’re in the market for a small, 9mm handgun for self-defense, this one might just fit your needs. Check one out – they are popular, so you might have to shop around to find one – or two. The Micro 9, is a “big” surprise in a small package – remember that!

Taurus Millenium G2 With Laser

Taurus incorporated a Picatinny rail forward of the trigger guard as a handy feature to provide the necessary space to attach a wide variety of tactical accessories. With no shortage of aftermarket options, owners will most often opt for tact lights and laser sights for the Millennium G2.

One of the best accessories for this rail is a laser, and I highly recommend the CMR-201 Rail Master Universal Laser Sight. These lasers are seriously powerful and have ambidextrous activation control tabs, so don’t let their high price tag deter you. Another solid option is the small in size but big in power the Mil-Spec Uni Max Micro Rail Mount red Laser. This ambidextrous accessory is the perfect match for both compact and subcompact models.

If you’re looking to add a tactical flashlight to your gun, I’d go with the Insight M Series LED X2 Sub Compact Handgun Light. The Insight light is not only one of the best sub compact flashlights out there – it’s also super easy to use and mount. Overall, it’s hard NOT to be blown away by the Taurus Millennium G2 – it’s an extraordinary weapon straight out of the box, before modification or accessory adding.

Multiplication Model: Area

Writing Multiplication Sentences

Count the rows and columns of a rectangular region in each grid. Students of grade 3 and grade 4 need to write a multiplication sentence to describe each area model.

Drawing Rectangular Regions

Draw a rectangular region in the grid to find the answer to each multiplication sentence in these printable worksheets.

Each worksheet is a combination of two types, writing multiplication sentence and drawing area model.

M&P Shield Plus: Micro Compact With Enhanced Capacity

When it comes to concealed carry pistols, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield has fostered a fairly dedicated following. No surprise. The striker-fired, polymer-frame handgun is among the most reliable, concealed and affordable options to come down the pike. That ticks off a lot of boxes.

Now, it’s set to get even better. Smith & Wesson recently introduced the newest addition to the line—the M&P Shield Plus. As its name suggests, the 9mm offers a bit more than previous iterations, in particular enhanced capacity in a micro-compact package. And, boy howdy, does it offer quite a bit of firepower for its class of handgun, feeding off a 13-round magazine.

As to its size, the Shield Plus comes in at a very manageable 6.1-inches in length, 1.1-inches in width and 20-ounces in weight, which should prove conducive with deep carry, even in light garb. The 3.1-inch barreled gun also boasts several features that make it quite shootable, including a flat-faced trigger with a tactile and audible reset, enhanced grip texturing for a positive handle and high visibility three-dot sights.

Wait, aren’t all guns going optic-ready nowadays? Quite right and so is the Shield Plus, but Smith & Wesson offers this model through its well-regarded Performance center. Available with a Crimson Trace model with optics cuts, though the gunmaker does not specify the compatibility of the slide cut. There are some clues, given the PC Shield Plus is available with a 4 MOA Crimson Trace micro red-dot, though the particular model goes unnamed.

Best Starter Kit for Concealed Carry:

Disclosure: Some of these links are affiliate links. Caribou Media Group may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Thank you!

Smith & Wesson offers options with and without a manual safety on its standard and PC models.
As for price, the stand Shield Plus runs $553 and the Performance Center option with red-dot $896.

Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 10+1, 13+1
Length: 6.1″
Front Sight: White Dot
Rear Sight: White 2-Dot
Action: Striker Fire
Grip: Polymer
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
Slide Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
Frame Material: Polymer
Slide Finish: Matte Black
Frame Finish: Matte Black
Barrel Length: 3.1” (7.9 cm)
Weight: 20.2 oz.

Performance Center M&P 9 SHIELD PLUS Specs
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Capacity: 13+1
Optics: Red/Green Dot
Length 7″
Front Sight: Fiber Optic Green
Rear Sight: Fiber Optic Red
Action: Striker Fire
Grip: Polymer
Barrel Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
Slide Material: Stainless Steel with Armornite® Finish
Frame Material: Polymer
Slide Finish: Matte Black
Frame Finish: Matte Black
Barrel Length: 4″ (10.2 cm)
Weight: 22.6 oz.

6.1: Review of Dots and Boxes Model

By Moparr Motor - Detroit (Nov 1992, Dec 2004, Dec 2010)

The following information can be used as your guide to better understand the date codes that are applied to components used in the production of vehicles. There are various types of date code identification applied to material.

Production dates could be etched, stamped (ink or steel punch type) on the part or even on a tag. Keep in mind that this is just a guide. Chrysler has a scheme that was to be followed however, some suppliers applied the code slightly different. Some codes are easy to spot and translate and some require a considerable examination.

Typically the scheduled vehicle production would be from August 1 st to July 31 st .

Ref Date code type Code meaning Example Components typically found with
this type of date identification
A Alpha-numeric 2 digit code Month & Year E9 = May 1969 Carter carburetor base, Carter Fuel pump, Viscous fan drives, drive shafts
B Single digit Year G = 1971 Engine identification pad
C1 Two digit Month & Year 71= 7th month
(July) 1971
A 0 = January 1970
Side view mirrors, glass, wheels, temperature sending units. Prestolight ignition distributor ID tag, oil pressure-sending unit.
C2 Two digit Year (Calendar) 70 = 1970 Alternator and starter
C3 Two digit Month & Day 12 6 = December 6 th Wheels . The part number would give you an idea of the year.
C4 Two digits with dots Year & Month 7. . . = 1967 March
9. . = 1969 February
Motor mount
D1 Three digit Production week & Year 301 = 30 th week of 1971 Exhaust manifolds, seat tracks, fuel sending units, ignition coils, voltage regulators, ignition distributor tags, lower control arms horns
D2 Three digit Month, Day & Year 12 6 71 = December 6, 1971 U joint strap, alternator, engine block
D3 Three digit Month, Day & Year 12 6 1 = December 6, 1971 U joint strap, alternator, engine block
D4 Three digit Production week & year 241= 41 st week of 1971 U joint strap, alternator, engine block, torsion bars, belts
E1 Four digit Day of year & Year 3301 = 330 th day of 1971 K frame, master cylinder, power steering gear, windshield wiper motor, Holley carb, Carter carb ID tag, hoses, Radiator, Hood catch , hood latch, emergency brake mechanism
E2 Four digit Day, Month & Year 10 9 69 = October 9, 1969 Dana axle tubes, exhaust manifolds, water pump
E3 Four digit 10,000 Day calendar 2995 = Oct 9, 1969 Hemi engines, manual and automatic transmissions
F Five digit Year & Quarter 1971 1 = 1 st quarter of 1971 Spark plug wires
G Cast Star wheel (12) Year & month * Alternator starter
H Cast boxes (12) Year & month * Automatic transmission tail shaft

* = Casting date. The spokes or boxes that have dots in them represent the month that the component was cast. Dots in 5 spokes or boxes = May, Dots in 10 spokes or boxes = October.

More than a Perkins Brailler: A Review of the Mountbatten Brailler, Part 1

The Mountbatten Brailler is not new technology, since it has been available since 1991. But for some reason, even though I have had access to one, I had never taken the time to play around with it. What I had thought of as simply an electronic braillewriter is now so much more. Over the years since its introduction, many features have steadily been added that increase the versatility of the device. This review covers what the Mountbatten does now and what place it may have in the classroom, both for beginners (in Part 1) and for more advanced students (in Part 2).

Out of the Box

The manufacturer provided me with a demonstration model of the Mountbatten Pro. The Pro is the top-of-the-line unit and has the most functionality of the three models that are available (the basic Mountbatten Writer, the Mountbatten Writer Plus, and the Mountbatten Pro). The unit I received also came with a visual read-out device, called the MIMic, and its connection cord. The MIMic, a small box with a screen that connects to the Mountbatten through a serial port, allows a teacher to read visually in print what is brailled on the Mountbatten. Also in the box was a power cord and two additional cables that could be used to connect the unit to peripherals, such as a personal computer.

It was easy to set up the unit with the MIMic attached by following the directions and diagrams in the manual. The various slots are easy to locate and use. The toggle switch to turn on the Mountbatten is in the front left corner, and the toggle switch for the MIMic is on the back of that unit. The MIMic must be turned on separately from the Mountbatten.

At first glance, the Mountbatten looks like a larger and more colorful Perkins Brailler (it is 3.54 inches high by 9.44 inches deep by 17.7 inches wide), with its kid-friendly yellow panel, black keys for the braille dots, and bright blue buttons. The blue buttons are a clue that the Mountbatten does more than just directly emboss braille. The diagrams and text that accompany the unit indicate that while one blue button is the familiar Backspace key, the extra buttons are left and right Function keys, a Command key, and an Enter key. Below the braille keys, where the spacebar is on the Perkins Brailler, are two thin keys—also blue the right key puts a space between words, and the left key moves the paper to the next line and the embossing head back to the left. Another immediate reminder that the Mountbatten is more than just an electric Perkins Brailler is the voice that greets you with a cheerful "G'day!" when the unit is turned on (the Mountbatten is manufactured in Australia by Quantum Technology). The Mountbatten also announces its battery status and which mode it is in.

Caption: The Mountbatten Brailler looks like a larger and more colorful Perkins Brailler.

Because the Mountbatten has many features that can be confusing for a beginner, when the unit is first delivered, it is in Learn mode and can be used right away as a braille writer. A second mode, Advanced mode, allows you to enter commands by pressing the Command key and a combination of braille keys and the Enter key. I will describe further the advanced features that can be programmed in Part 2 of this article.

I was interested at first in how the Mountbatten compared in the Learn mode—its simplest option—to the familiar Perkins Brailler as it may be used with beginning students. Even in Learn mode, however, the student or teacher can enter commands to add features that can help a beginning braille student, and these commands will be described throughout this article. Commands are easy to turn on and can be turned off by simply entering the command again (which is referred to as a "toggle" feature).

Simple but Helpful Features

As someone who has used the Perkins Brailler, I had trouble putting the paper into the Mountbatten at first—it just felt unfamiliar. For example, the bar that holds the paper in place does not move. I had to slip the paper underneath it, and I found it tricky to put the paper in straight at first. I had also moved the right margin stop well to the right but forgot to move it back. When I loaded the paper and then turned on the machine, the embossing head moved so far to the right (called the Margin Search feature) that it went off the paper. The head crumpled the paper as it moved back toward the center of the machine. It was easy enough for me to fix this problem and to remember from then on to make sure that the right margin was in the correct position. After loading paper in the device a few times, I got the hang of it. It is not difficult—just different.

Once the paper is inserted, the Mountbatten is ready for immediate embossing and behaves reassuringly like the familiar Perkins Brailler, albeit with a different feel. The six braille keys are in the customary position, with keys for braille dots 1, 2, and 3 on the left and keys for braille dots 4, 5, and 6 on the right. The keys are arranged at a slight angle that is more ergonomic than the Perkins Brailler. The keys require only a light touch to press, a helpful feature for young students or those who lack the finger strength to depress the keys on the standard Perkins Brailler. The recorded speech provides instant feedback and reinforcement by announcing the letters that are formed or the names of the keys that are pushed.

There are two speech options: recorded speech and synthetic speech. Recorded speech, which is the default, is a digital recording of a man's voice with an Australian accent, easy to understand even for beginners who are not familiar with talking computers. Synthetic speech, available in Advanced mode, can be manipulated in ways that are familiar to people who use screen-reading software: pitch, rate, quality, and so on. Since new users of synthetic speech often have difficulty understanding it immediately, it makes sense to have the default be recorded speech, even though it is slower than synthetic speech. As users gain speed and accuracy, they can try synthetic speech by using the Command key on the Mountbatten and entering the correct code. The speech can even be turned off entirely with another command. (These are definitely commands that teachers could try with beginners.)

I was interested to notice that in both the Learn and Advanced modes, recorded speech announced the names of the letters, not the contraction or word. For example, if I brailled in the letter "b" and then a space, the Mountbatten said "b space," rather than the word but. It took some getting used to, to hear a question mark referred to as "low h." (In recorded speech, the Mountbatten will say some of the contractions that are key combinations, such as the, wh, and ch.) The teacher or student can hear the contracted braille read by putting the Mountbatten in Advanced mode and then into synthetic speech. This may be a feature that teachers will want to use with beginners who are learning contracted braille, even though it is considered an "advanced" feature.

The MIMic's LCD (liquid crystal display) is designed to show in print what is being brailled on the Mountbatten, a boon for classroom teachers and others who do not know braille but need to give feedback and reinforcement to students as they write. However, the MIMIC displayed the word in its contracted form as a default. For example, if I brailled the contraction part, the Mountbatten announced "dot 5 p," but the MIMic displayed the word part. This is a helpful feature for classroom teachers who do not know braille, but they may not understand why the Mountbatten will announce "w space" but then show the word will on the MIMIC. The teacher of students with visual impairments will need to provide some training to the classroom teacher, paraprofessional, or parent on braille contractions and how they work. The MIMic display can be changed to show a letter-by-letter depiction of what was entered on the Mountbatten by typing in the command for "grade 1" (uncontracted) braille into the Mountbatten. For beginners who are using uncontracted braille or invented spelling, this is a helpful option.

The MIMic turns off automatically after 15 minutes of disuse to save the battery. You have to hit the keys firmly to get it to follow commands. You'll know the MIMic is paying attention to you when you hear it beep. The MIMic that came with my unit accurately displayed the text when it was first turned on. But after the MIMic went into battery-saving mode and then was reactivated, it would not automatically display the text as it was entered in the Mountbatten. I had to keep pushing the Scroll Down button for it to display what I was brailling. It seemed to work better if I turned it off when I was not using it and then turned it back on.

Basic Embossing Features and Options

The Mountbatten leaves five spaces at the end of each line before moving to the next line. I found this irritating at times. For instance, I wrote the word we and then wanted to braille the word can, which would have fit on the same line, but the Mountbatten sent me to the next line instead. Then, when I was brailling quickly and wrote a long word at the end of the line, the Mountbatten hyphenated at the end of the line. I found this feature by accident. Sometimes it would hyphenate correctly (such as "refrig-erator") and sometimes not (such as "Washingt-on" and "chan-ge").

There are two ways to overcome this problem. The easiest is to use the command for Word Wrap, which will have the machine emboss a word only after the spacebar is hit. Then the Mountbatten will judge if there is enough room to put the word on the line or to move to the next line. This is the feature that the Mountbatten representative recommended. A second possibility is to put the Mountbatten in Manual mode. In this mode, the Mountbatten acts more like a Perkins Brailler you have to hit the Line Down key to move to the next line. This means that you must think ahead to how much space is left at the end of the line or hyphenate the word yourself.

(An aside: When I learned braille on a Lavender Brailler back in the Dark Ages, space saving and maximizing each line was considered important. I wonder if teachers still teach students to do so, now that paper is inexpensive but time is not. Braille readers have gotten used to seeing large spaces at the ends of lines because of computer translation software that does not hyphenate it simply moves a word to the next line. Also, in word processing with a computer, students are not taught to hit Return at the end of every line as people did with a typewriter. So should students be taught to use the Manual mode of the Mountbatten so they get used to thinking ahead as they braille to maximize the symbols per line? Should they learn to hyphenate and, if so, at what age? Or should teachers not worry about hyphenation anymore and focus instead on just teaching students to write? I am interested in hearing from teachers how they use braille devices to teach the writing process.)

The Mountbatten also erases errors. To erase a symbol, you must hit Backspace and the Correct Letter commands at the same time. The Mountbatten also replaces a letter with a space when you hit the Backspace and the Space keys at the same time. The correction feature is helpful for beginners, although I can imagine that some students will overdo it. I have had students who get so obsessed with correcting mistakes that they would continually erase or cross out their braille, rather than write first and edit later. Luckily, the Mountbatten has an editing feature in its Advanced mode, which will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.

You can control how heavily the Mountbatten impresses the paper. To braille on lightweight paper, you can hit the Command key and the left Function key simultaneously. The Mountbatten will say "down" and emboss a sample full cell. To braille on heavier paper, the Command key and the right Function key are depressed together. The Mountbatten will say "up" and again will emboss a sample full cell. Sometimes you will not want the full cell to appear, so the Embossing mode can be turned off first the Mountbatten will announce "up" or "down" without the embossed full cell.

For brailling on heavy materials, you can set the Mountbatten to do the Multistrike feature. Any teacher who has tried to label thick file folders or plastic sheets will appreciate this feature. Teachers can also use smaller paper, such as index cards, to make flash cards. If a small piece of paper has been inserted and the Mountbatten cannot sense it, you can set the device to do "no paper operation," which tricks the Mountbatten into embossing on small slips of paper (although I would just use a slate instead). The options available to use different kinds of paper and materials for embossing certainly increase the flexibility of the device and set the Mountbatten apart from other braille writers.

The Graphics mode can be set in Learn mode—this is not an Advanced feature. This mode will create dots that are closer together, apparently with the idea that the teacher can create lines and other simple shapes. However, there was little information in the manual about how to use Graphics mode, other than how to turn it on. By playing around with this mode, I was able to make some unconvincing shapes using commands described in the manual on how to move around the page, such as up and down a column. Apparently, software and a tutorial are available that teach how to use this mode, but I did not have access to these resources to try them out.

One-handed mode is another option available in Learn mode, which would be helpful for students with physical disabilities. To turn on the One-handed mode, press Command, then k and u and Enter. In this mode, you must press the spacebar after each letter (or, to make a space, hit the spacebar twice). When you want to return to regular two-handed mode, you need to remember that it is still in one-handed mode and enter the command as such, which means you must hit k, then space, then u, then space, and then Enter, otherwise it will not toggle off again. The Mountbatten is fairly forgiving of people who do not hit the keys simultaneously, which is helpful for users who have less manual dexterity.

One other feature that teachers may be interested in for beginning braille readers and writers is an Advanced feature for Patterns, a popular braille reading series that is available from the American Printing House for the Blind. There are two ways to use this feature. First, the teacher can set the Mountbatten to speak certain sets of contractions, as they are introduced in Patterns, as the students braille, but not to speak others. Second, people who do not know braille can use the forward-translation feature from a keyboard connected to the Mountbatten, so it will only translate the Patterns contractions the students know and not emboss others. This feature will be described in more detail in Part 2.

Classroom teachers are sometimes concerned about the noise made by braille devices, afraid that they will distract other students. While in my experience, the sounds made my various adaptive devices quickly become part of the general hum of the classroom, there are ways to minimize the noise made by the Mountbatten. The speech can be controlled by turning down the volume (the volume control is on the front of the device), using headphones, or turning off the speech entirely. Controlling the embossing pressure and using lighter-weight paper will also make the Mountbatten quieter to use. The manufacturer suggests putting the device on soft rubber pads, such as two mouse pads, to minimize the noise.

The Mountbatten, like other electronic devices, may not be able to withstand the abuse that a Perkins Brailler can take. Say what you will about the Perkins, it is virtually indestructible. My coworker has seen a Perkins tumble down the stairs and still work. I have seen all kinds of strange things stuck in a Perkins, such as BandAids and once a shirt, yet I was always able to fix it easily.

Kitten Caboodle

My Mountbatten unit, on the other hand, had some difficulty after a showdown with my 6-month-old kitten, Lilli. Lilli was fascinated by the device, biting the embosser head, stepping on the keys, and digging around inside the machine. She made it beep alarmingly once, but I simply turned the machine off and then on again (as was recommended by the troubleshooting section of the manual), and it worked. For the most part, the Mountbatten was able to take kitten abuse with no trouble, claws and all, until Lilli grabbed the embossing head and stopped it from moving. The Mountbatten yelled at her repeatedly "braille head error." I turned the unit off to let it sit for awhile, but it still would not emboss and only made a loud beeping noise. By the next day, though, it was fine again and worked with no problem. Catastrophe was averted. (There are also reset commands available for such occasions.) That the Mountbatten was vanquished for several hours by a kitten, however, made me wonder how it could withstand an entire kindergarten class of children with curious fingers.

Caption: Lilli meets the Mountbatten.

Getting Help

I was disappointed with the Mountbatten's manual. I found it hard to follow, and it provided poor directions on how to use the many features that the Mountbatten offers. There were also inconsistencies in how the commands were described. For example, BS + S means "backspace plus the spacebar" not "backspace and the letter 'S'," which was a mistake I made several times. Other commands are shown, such as "spk r," and one has to know to put the space in the command and not type it in all together. So in some cases, the manual uses the letter "S" to indicate a space and in other places, the directions show an actual space. I also looked high and low for the directions on how to turn the Learn and Advanced modes on and off. Luckily, an excellent CD tutorial is available free of charge from Quantum Technologies, and it is well worth the teacher's and parent's time to go through it. The CD not only explains more (and more clearly) about how to use features of the Mountbatten, it allows for practice activities and feedback.

Caption: The Mountbatten Pro offers an array of options and features, including the ability to connect to a QWERTY keyboard, printer, PC, and the MIMic display.

More for More

So for a beginner, the Mountbatten has many features that the Perkins Brailler does not. The ease of depressing the buttons, the device's ergonomic design, its speech reinforcement, its ability to correct errors, and the visual display on the MIMic make it a wonderfully enhanced brailling device. For its high price (see the Product Information section), however, the Mountbatten must be better than just a souped-up Perkins Brailler—and it is. In the Learn mode, you can still set margins, tabs, line spacing, and centering turn the embossing on and off and save files to memory. In Part 2 of this article, I will consider the dizzying array of options and features that the Mountbatten Pro offers, such as those just mentioned, as well as forward and backward braille translation the ability to connect to a QWERTY keyboard, printer, and PC and the ability to create files that can be stored in the device. These are the capabilities of the device that send it off in the stratosphere compared to the humble Perkins Brailler and make its high price more justifiable.

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