LaTex for AoPS in 3 Lessons

My students who take AoPS online classes want to learn LaTex, the mathematical typesetting code. Equations are easy to read, your solutions look pretty, and for young students it can be something of an alpha move. I get them started with three basic lessons and from there they are pretty much using it independently.

Lesson 1: How to delimit LaTex.

You need to tell your environment where they should use Latex and where they shouldn’t. LaTex typically ignores spaces so if you don’t delimit it properly, you may end up with something like this. At AoPS, you enclose your math with a single dollar sign at the start and end. So I ask my students to type in

$2+1=3$ This should render as 2+1=3 Nearly every simple math expression you put between dollar signs will look nicer. Sometimes I just let them try that for a week before Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Curly braces.

Curly braces: { } are another delimiter for LaTex arguments. I ask my student to type $3^2=9$ and this will render as expected: 3^2=9. Then I ask them to type $2^10=1024$ and it renders as 2^10=1024. The exponent did not format correctly because Latex didn’t know there were 2 digits in the exponent.

So I have my students type $2^{10}=1024$ enclosing the 2 digit exponent in curly braces. And we see: 2^{10}=1024 as expected.

Lesson 3: Fractions

I have my student write $\frac{1}{2}$ and it renders a pretty fraction like this: \frac{1}{2}. This is their first example of a defined Latex command, and we use the backslash to alert LaTex to not write “frac”.

These three lessons illustrate the logic of LaTex and are usually enough to launch my students as independent LaTex users. For more Latex code, I direct them to this AoPS site or I advise them to google something like “Latex summation sign.” AoPS also offers a test site where students can practice their code.

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