Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LaTeX

In part of my re-creation as the best teacher I can be, my goal is to post about one great thing that I've done during the week. (Hence, I must do one great thing worth blogging about each week!) This being midterm week, I thought that I was going to have to wait to commence my record of cool things but as I was getting ready to start typing up my mammoth two calculus midterms, I realized it was time for me to start using LaTeX (pronounced as Lah-Tek) to make my exams instead of fighting with Word.

For those of you have haven't yet crossed over, it is easy and elegant. The amount of joy I experienced in making my first exam almost brought me to tears. LaTeX is not a word processing program, but a *free* document processor. You type everything into a basic text file, run a compiler, and your commands make a beautiful PDF document with professional looking equations. If you have any experience in computer programming, this is a piece of cake. You have complete control and don't have to deal with the enforced numbering system and automatic formatting of Word, the drop-down menus of Equation Editor or the sheer amount of memory resources it takes to make WYSIWYG equations. (Just the first of four sections of my calc midterm had over 100 embedded equations!)

To all of those that have never used LaTeX before, it is well worth your time to become fluent. In less than an hour, I was typing up my midterm in record time, popping back and forth from websites with instruction commands back to my exam. The information is all readily accessible online and you can do the basics with no problem. I already started to go beyond the basic page template and have been researching special page formats and I now hope to organize all of the questions I type up so that I can easily reuse questions. It will now be no problem holding thirty plus multiple choice questions in one document to easily copy and paste into a current quiz or test.

Here's a sample of what you can produce in a little over ten minutes with LaTeX. (This is my first homework assignment for my Number Theory Through Cryptology course.)

If you want more information about LaTeX, check out their website for downloads, explanations, how-tos, and more resources. My favorite resources for learning the equation commands have been the Art of Problem Solving website and the wikibook LaTeX but there is tons of information out there. Google can supply you with whatever information you need.

3 comments:

  1. If you haven't already, check out the exam package. As you might guess from the name, it makes it super easy to layout exams, even adding up the total points and adding boxes for you to write in per question totals.

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  2. Thanks, Hadley, I didn't know about that! I'll definitely be checking that out later this week.

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