016. Using LaTeX

tldr: a water emulsion of a synthetic rubber or plastic
– Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

I kid- I kid. LaTeX (lay-tech) is like if Python and Microsoft Word had a kid– and that kid was 10 times better at easily formatting mathematical equations in typed documents. Now, I for one, highly advocate for the idea/practice of handwriting homework [I have three folders of homework from multi variable calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations that I refuse to throw out to prove this]. But at a certain point, math is simply cleaner to type out.

One can easily delete something that is typed, and as someone who did her homework in pen, I highly appreciate this fact. [although I will note, that this was my best study habit: do a problem over and over again until I could do it without having to get a new piece of paper. I digress.] Furthermore, when trying to clearly communicate with your professor, sometimes it is simply easier to write down what step you took:
– “I will prove this statement through mathematical induction.”
– “Here, I row reduce the matrix.” [omitted: “I didn’t just pull this matrix out of my ass”]
– “Please, I promise I am not dumb, I just couldn’t find the eloquent way to solve this.”
Typing a comment like one of the above is simply neater, and takes up less space than writing it down by hand. Usually. People with tiny handwriting kill me.

Why learn LaTeX? I am glad you asked Paige. Because it is EASY. Honestly. Pick up a math problem set, and try typing your solutions to it. Don’t know how to insert a Sigma into your writing? Google it. Seriously, google is your best friend. Then, once you are done, find a friend (/someone better at LaTeX) to look over your code– they might have tips on how to better format your answers.
That’s another thing: formatting your answer is so much easier than other typed documents. Have you ever tried getting equals signs to line up on a word document by using the tab button or space bar 10 billion times? Now with a simple \begin{align*} command, you simply put a ‘&’ in front of the parts of an equation/math statement you want to line up. And it automatically centers formulas for you. I have neat notes, but they have gotten so much neater.
If you are good at patterns, you will be good at LaTeX. For instance the code for a Sigma is: \Sigma. Any bets as to what the code is for pi? Long gone are the days of frantically searching the insert special characters page.

I am using LaTeX for my Abstract Algebra notes, and by using sub-files I can easily move around my notes, combining them into one big document or looking at one at a time.

A look at my current notes.
Notes, but with actual math.

It made it extremely easy to add a subsection in a chapter later on. Furthermore, the table of contents page automatically compiles for me. It’s brilliant.

If you are interested in seeing more of it, you can download the above file (I swear it is not a virus). It’s great– what can I say?

I highly encourage the following:
1) If this is something you want to do, simply start! All it took for me was to finally invest time into learning it– similar to any coding language. In my opinion it is easier when it is for a purpose, for instance, typing my solutions to a math class.
2) You can use overleaf.com to use a free LaTeX editor. I use this one in general, simply because I like the availability of my documents. You can also download the application.
3) Look over other people’s code if they will let you. Some people prefer not to share their code, similarly, I will only share certain documents. In any case, if they let you, it can be good to look at their code for tips and tricks.
4) A good website for practice is texnique.xyz . I am not good at the timed mode, but the zen mode is perfect for learning new codes quickly and efficiently. Plus it is fun!

I wish I had been told about LaTeX earlier. Wait no. I wish I had *started* using LaTeX earlier. Try it out!

Rant/post over– ’til Sunday 🙂


Published by Paige Bright

Hi- my name is Paige Alexandria Bright. I am a rising junior at MIT interested in mathematics and philosophy. I have been writing this blog since the beginning of COVID. Lets see where this goes.

3 thoughts on “016. Using LaTeX

  1. lmao if this is a rant you should read my blog

    also imagine having neat notes pre latex; what a concept. i have only taken paper notes for one class so far since coming to college and it was only because that class had lots of figures. like i just have not done anything with paper xp

    Liked by 1 person

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