The Power of LaTeX in Math & Science

Often Math and Science teachers don’t see the value of technology in their classrooms. They find that it’s a hinderance, things take longer, students don’t pick up certain skills that they need (such as drawing a graph, or performing a dissection), but they also find that writing equations is a pain, and when I say a pain, I mean a real pain. They can be cumbersome, equation editors suck and let’s face it, if you’re using Google Apps for Education, Slides just don’t support them!

However, there are a few tools out there which will allow you to transform learning using technology, and some of them make you life easier in some cases! One of my favourite things is LaTeX, a markup language for Math (don’t stop reading!), which allows you to create equations from a line of code. One of the joys of this is that you don’t need to be able to remember the code, you can use a free tool such as this awesome one from MyScript, which allows you to handwrite your equation using a touchpad, mouse, graphics tablet, or touchscreen, and get the LaTeX out.

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 7.31.05 PM

Now all you need to do is copy the LaTeX and use it in your favourite tool. Here are some of mine:

  • g(Math) – allows you to create equations, graphs, statistical analysis, quizzes and much much more right in Google Docs, Sheets and Forms. This is a must have tool for anyone in the Google Apps for Education environment. Students can even respond to a ‘quiz’ in forms by inserting an equation using LaTeX or an equation editor, or even insert hand drawn images into their response!
  • Poll Everywhere – you can ‘poll’ your audience using text messaging or the web, and using LaTeX you can have equations as your options for people to respond to! Awesome! For those of you using Google Apps, you can even embed your poll into Google Slides (pretty cool eh?)

So apart from the obvious ability to use LaTeX for equations, you can actually copy the code between applications, so I can use the same LaTeX in Google Docs as I can in Poll Everywhere.

Sometimes LaTeX doesn’t play nicely with its friends, and you will need to play around with it. The biggest issue that I have run into is with fractions, the code to create a fraction is /dfrac {numerator} {denominator}, however, both Poll Everywhere and g(Math) prefer the /frac {numerator} {denominator} version. It’s not a huge difference, but the d makes or breaks it.

Play with it and let me know how you get on, most of all, use it, and use it well!


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