Math Equations

Introduction

Creating math equations for use in eLearning is tricky.  In the past, instructors used editors that helped them construct equations only to export them as images.   In the past, there were no standards that browsers could follow to display math equations properly.  Browsers, however, could reliably display images.  Therefore equation editors produced images.

LaTeX

Some savvy mathematics and science instructors used a markup language called LaTeX (pronounced Latek).  LaTeX was based on the TeX typesetting language.  LaTeX supports the typesetting and display of mathematics.  LaTeX equations are constructed with a simple but specialized language.

Here is an example of the quadratic equation:

\frac{-b\pm\sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}

Which produces the following, when supported by some helper code:

2018-05-10_2117

Quadratic equation

LaTeX looks complicated, but it is not.  \frac{numerator}{denominator} produces a fraction with a fraction bar.

The numerator has the term -b followed by a plus and minus symbol denoted by \pm.

\sqrt{} produces a square root.  The ^ produces an exponent.  And so forth.

Unfortunately, LaTeX is not accessible.  Most screen readers can’t read a LaTeX equation.  Therefore visually impaired students won’t ‘perceive’ the equation.

LaTeX should not be discounted, however.  It can still play a very important role in support of the preferred markup language: MathML.

MathML

MathML is powerful and accessible.  Equations marked up in MathML can be displayed in most modern browsers.

LodeStar supports MathML.

The trick is in finding the right math editor to construct MathML.  There are several math editor options.    The one we like to configure in LodeStar is http://hostmath.com/  but there is one important caveat.  The editor is surrounded by ads.  One can easily inadvertently click on an ad while editing an equation.

Hostmath in LodeStar  loads quickly.  If you know LaTeX, you can quickly construct an equation or can use the math palette on the left.  Once an equation is constructed, pick the MathML version.

This produces

2018-05-10_2117

Quadratic equation

 

MathML is xml markup.  That means that it is highly structured so that it can be parsed (interpreted) and presented.  You must include the <math> tag and the </math> end tag.  They are  book ends.  Instructors must copy and paste the book ends along with all of the code in between.

You paste  the MathML code into LodeStar with the help of the <> tool in the LodeStar  HTML editor.

2018-05-10_2136

All embed code can be inserted with the help of the <> tool.

Important Note: MathMl will not render perfectly in the LodeStar HTML Editor.  You must preview the equation in the Firefox browser.  When you preview within LodeStar, a copy of the project address gets saved to the clipboard.  Paste this address into the FireFox browser address field.  You only need Firefox when you are authoring.  Your students won’t need Firefox.  Your students will see a perfectly rendered equation.

 

MyScript

For those who don’t know LaTeX or don’t have the patience to work the palette of symbols,  MyScript will be a godsend. MyScript will not load in LodeStar but can be used separately and it will produce MathML code that you can paste into LodeStar:

http://webdemo.myscript.com/views/math.html#

 

You simply hand write your equation and then click on MathML on the right to produce the code.  Paste the code in LodeStar using:

2018-05-10_2136

2018-04-26_2042

The reason why MathMl is so important is that it works without a plug-in in all modern browsers.

 

Configuring LodeStar with a Math Editor

STEP ONE

Select Tools > Math Editor Option.  Paste in http://hostmath.com/ or your favorite editor.

STEP TWO

To quickly access the editor, select Help > Online Math Editor.  The editor will appear in a separate tab.  You can then construct your equation and display the MathML code.

STEP THREE

Copy the MathML code to the clipboard and then embed it on the Text Page by selecting the <> embed tool and pasting in all of the code.

STEP FOUR

Again, please understand that it will not render well on the LodeStar page.  It will render well to students.  To confirm this, click on Preview.   Preview will save the address of the project on the clipboard.  Paste this into a Firefox browser address field.  Again, your students won’t need Firefox.  This browser is only needed to preview projects locally before they are uploaded to a learning management system.

Conclusion:

Here is what the Quadratic formula looks like in MathML in LodeStar:

2018-05-10_2150

 

The equation is mangled.  However, here is what it looks like in Firefox.  This is what the students will see in any modern browser, once the project has been exported to a learning management system:

2018-05-10_2151.png

 

 

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