Talk:Using TeX Notation

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Note: You are currently viewing documentation for Moodle 2.0. Up-to-date documentation for the latest stable version is available here: Using TeX Notation.

At this point it would not be appropriate to promote another TeX package so please be careful. it might be better to add a link to another page that could describe how to change to a full TeX package.--Colin Fraser 15:06, 13 July 2010 (UTC)

Bit inaccurate

The problem, Colin, is that a good deal of this material is inaccurate and I don;t want to start a documentation war - lol- as you know that I agree that documentation is inadequate. While I would also agree with some of your "editorializing":

The various brands of TeX and other math markup languages have become
something of a nightmare to try and find any reasonable consistency.
Most use sub-sets and variations of TeX rules and fonts and symbols
that seem to be developed on the whim of the developer rather than
any consistent mathematical strategy. Also the lack of user friendly
documentation has worked against the easy spread of knowledge here,
but what is worse, and this is the problem for the Moodle Community,
the lack of directly related documentation in using TeX Notation in
Moodle has not been helpful. (Having said these things, I am sure that
many people will disagree - but I accept there is a large difference
between what the developers of the various TeX "standards" consider
"consistent" and reality..:) ) Please help by adding your own examples
and rules to these pages. If you notice an error, please change it, if
you see something missing, please add it. 

I don't know that it belongs in the doc itself... Marc Grober 21:13, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Do not think there is much in the way of ego here, I wax profanely due to ignorance as much as knowledge sometimes..:) That is just what I do! You might want to try reading Cicero, my kind of editorializing!!! Anyway, there is a need for accuracy, if there is anything that is so woefully inaccurate that it may reflect poorly on the value of the information that is included, please change it.--Colin Fraser 11:23, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Marc, I am uncomfortable with the second paragraph here:

 If you are using other than the Moodle Tex filter to render Tex you may find 
 yourself using other tokens, as well as different syntax.  It is critical that 
 you understand what applications you are using to parse your text expression, 
 as well as whether the application is parsing Tex or some other syntax and what 
 application you are using to display the Math.  The Moodle Tex filter outputs 
 gif or png images based on Tex text expressions delimtied by doubledollar signs. 
 But, if you are using the Moodle Algebra filter, you will be using a parser 
 imported from webworks to parse non-Tex text expressions (algebra syntax), as in 
 @@x/y@@, though you will be using the Tex filter to actually display the resulting 
 images as png or gif.  If you use MathJax or ASCIIMathML,  you can easily change 
 the tokens you use. ASCIIMathML on its own uses backticks, as in `root(n)(x)` though 
 it can also parse Tex if delimited by dollar signs. ASCIIMathML by default outputs 
 MathML and falls back to gif or png. MathJax can output MathML or HTML-CSS. The 
 discussion below largely focuses on using Tex syntax text expressions with the Moodle 
 Tex filter.  However, much of the discussion that addresses Tex syntax can be generalized 
 to other applications that parse Tex. FYI, Moodle Docs uses mediawiki with a Tex extension 
 that employs tags for delimiters instead of tokens, as in: <math>x^2</math>

For me, this demonstrates part of the problem I have with the entire TeX/LateX/etc thing. There is so much overlap that it is easy to get tied up in qualifying statements that the main message is lost.:) --Colin Fraser 23:16, 7 August 2010 (UTC)

Colin, Any time one wishes to make something "simple" one runs the risk of obscuring important information, lol. The reason I add the text that you deleted is that you imply that tokens are absolute (they are not) and you run the risk of further confusing users as to the diffs among math notation syntax, parsers, constructors, display methods. Tex in Moodle is, for good or ill, not monolithic, but as with much of open software, a collage of this that or the other. I think there is a balance to be struck, especially in as much as so many users are doing Tex without the Moodle Tex filter, and that popuation is most likely going to grow. Marc Grober 09:21, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Well, being male, things need to be simple..:) Simple things for simple minds. I agree that important information is often obscured by over-simplifying, and I am certainly guilty of that, but what I am looking at is some sort of consistency. Not being OCD myself, (like most programmers which is probably why I never was much of a programmer) I do not have the urge to track down every minor detail and render it unconscious until I find a place for it. In this case, the over abundance of detail in one aspect, and the often apparent deliberate obfuscation of that detail is appalling. You only have to look at the Mimetex manual to see what has been done there to understand my point, and that is, I think, considerably better than many other sites I went to. Essentially, I am looking at the basics and at that level, most people are not going to worry about the finer points, all they want is "can I get this to work". I suspect that most Maths teachers who are going to be using Moodle are not going to be able to get past Equation Editor, therefore Moodle is a dud as far as they are concerned. We have already seen one example of that recently and this is a simple and non-invasive way of introducing what is an extremely complex subject. Certainly, most will move on to something better than TeX Notation, but for the moment, is there a way to keep this clear and clean and as simple as possible without too much confusion? If MathJax or AsciiMath were native to Moodle, and no doubt there is strong argument to do that, then I doubt I would even have done this.--Colin Fraser 14:19, 8 August 2010 (UTC)

Also, this paragraph:

 For the most part, the TeX Notation has been built using a sub-set of characters 
 from the TeX "default" character set. The trouble is there does not seem to be a 
 "default" character set for TeX. This is one of the most confusing aspects of using 
 TeX Notation in Moodle. When we realise that the documentation we are using is 
 related to the creation of printed documents, and we want to use TeX on line, 
 in Moodle, then further problems occur. There are no environment statements to be 
 made. There are few \begins and \ends. If you go to Administration > Modules > Filters > Filter Manager 
 you will see what filters have been enabled. If you then go to the TeX Notation 
 page, the default preamble is editable via the text box. Using this tool you can add in 
 or subtract font packages and other packages, change the default font package, etc.

Says what it needs to say, but it sucks in that it really does not say enough. There should be here, or perhaps as another question, a description of how fonts can be added in, and ultimately, a way in which the Teacher and Administrator can get away from the native TeX Notation filter. For me, there needs to be a way in which scientific symbols can be added in for Physics, Chemistry and some of the more esoteric sciences, like cosmology? I know that TeX Notation uses a great deal of the same syntax, but there is a lot it does not use. --Colin Fraser 12:00, 9 August 2010 (UTC)

That did not make a lot of sense... the last part. I know that most sciences use the same Maths symbology, and chemistry can be largely covered with subscripts and superscripts and with the \line command sequence activated, but a lot of sciences use particular theorems and symbology that cannot be replicated easily. This is why I am thinking there needs to be a way of elaborating the point that other fonts can be added in and used as well as just changing away from the core TeX Notation. For example, the question will be asked "I have installed doh-doh-TeX but I cannot access half the characters their help file tells me I should have available. Is Moodle interfering?" "Well Johnnie, Santa does not really exist either... " and so on. There needs be some descriptor on how to do it in Moodle, but I can't find one either because there is nothing available or it is couched in such obscure terms that it does not register.--Colin Fraser 08:32, 10 August 2010 (UTC)

____ Colin, I agree with much of what you say. One of my concerns is that we end up seeing lots of posts to the forums because users do not understand that there are different pieces that do different things because like all users they just want things to be simple, transparent, universal, etc. While this is coming, it won't be moodle core for the foreseeable future, so folk do need some basic understanding of how math notation can be done in Moodle. You would be amazed the number of posts we get that dragmath doesn;t work, simply because the user doesn;t understand that dragmath is a constructor, not a displayer. Or posts about the algebra filter because people don't understand that it simply parses algebra syntax into Tex syntax.

The Moodle Tex filter is a kludge, a kludge that needs some updating (I do need to find some time to work on the code tweak to use dvipng, lol). If users were all using tex live and all had access to tlmgr it would be a simple matter to post instructions as to how to tweak one's tex installation and update the preamble, but that is not the case. In many respects that is why something like asciimathml or mathjax may be a "best" solution for users rather than the current Tex filter (and yes, I suppose I should probably create a doc page for mathjax and a module page) because it can be configured to make things transparent for many users. If we want to offer something easy then it needs to be contained in Moodle as any time Moodle relies on anything external easy goes out the window, and that is one reason why asciimathml is so nice, as it can be added to Moodle with almost no impact (mathJax is much larger.) But, any time you want to do something that will meet "most" demands, you are failing to address some needs of some users. If I argue that dragmath and asciimath should be core it is because I want things to work without any problem for "most" users. As we have seen, Tex, which relies on externalities, continues to give people fits. Marc Grober 16:51, 12 August 2010 (UTC)

It would be better if there was a real native TeX tool included in Moodle but it would still need people to use and understand it, I agree. However, this is one of those things that I have suggested about the wiki, why reinvent the wheel? Spending so much time developing any tool that can be bettered by another program that can be adapted to the Moodle environment, like MediaWiki and Mahara can without being completely absorbed could create a far more attractive, and useful environment, package for educators than just Moodle alone. Oh well.. we struggle on, and TeX Notation is still an easy method for learning about TeX and LateX. --Colin Fraser 03:49, 14 August 2010 (UTC)