Thursday, September 5, 2013

LaTeX Workshop in Class

In a post on this blog on August 14, I indicated that I was going to require my students in the introduction to proofs course to use LaTeX.  This is the first time I have done this.  I am quite nervous about requiring the use of LaTeX because I am not sure how the students will react to this.  Students seem to be quite comfortable using a word processor and it is usually not too difficult for them to then incorporate the use the equation editor.  Most students have used MS Word and some used Open Office.  I am not fond of the equation editors in these two word processors, and I often encourage my students to use MathType, especially with MS Word.

Yesterday, I introduced my students to LaTeX.  Students were asked to bring their laptops to class and to prepare for class by installing LaTeX or signing up for a WriteLaTeX account before class.  We then had a 50-minue LaTeX workshop in class.  I supplied them with a .tex document that will serve as the template for their work in the class.  I also supplied them with a reference document (latex-examples.pdf) and an exercise for them to work on during class (latex-exercise.pdf).  I was very pleased with the results.  Most students only progressed through about the first page of the exercise document, but I was very happy with their enthusiasm and willingness to try to learn LaTeX.  All of the students were able to do something and obtained a successfully compiled LaTeX document.  I am very hopeful that having students use LaTeX will be a success. 

I am hoping to have a couple more LaTeX workshops during the semester, but we do have other resources for students at Grand Valley as well.  First, there students may bring their laptop and their LaTeX issues to my office.  We also have a tutor in our Mathematics Center that can help students with LaTeX.  Finally, Robert Talbert, a colleague of mine at Grand Valley, has produced about ten screencasts about LaTeX to help students learn LaTeX.  These screencasts are available on the GrandValley Math Channel on YouTube.  Feel free to have your students use these screencasts.

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