Introduction to LaTeX

LaTeX is a powerful document preparation system. This system is free and is available across many operating systems, such as Windows, Mac OS and most distributions of Linux. A successor of TeX, LaTeX was created in the 1983 by Leslie Lamport. This computer typesetting software was originally created for academic papers in STEM fields, and since has grown in popularity in other fields because of its power to create many types of paper and digital documents common in academic fields. For those who are aiming to write a long text such as a dissertation, thesis or a book, a major attraction to learning LaTeX is its ability to handle large papers and provide uniform, beautiful, and professional formatting. LaTeX handles all the mundane tasks of formatting, so you can focus on writing the content!

Why use LaTeX

For some samples of what you can create with LaTeX, visit the Notes and Work section of this blog. Below are some reasons why you might be interested in using LaTeX:

  • Manage large documents by using include directives, which allows for reuse or quick modification of content as well as manage large documents.
  • The technique of using multiple files to represent one documents also allows for the flexibility to quickly create of many versions of an assessment.
  • Automate citations, bibliographies and formatting of bibliographies. (Quickly switching from numeric style to APA when you transition from math to social sciences, for example)
  • Natural to integrate into workflow if you use popular reference management software such as Zotero, Mandeley, Citavi and most others. (Check here to see if your reference manager is compatible with Bibtex.)
  • Automate the creation of list of figures/tables/graphs, and the associated numbering
  • Automate the creation, sorting and creation of index, acronym and glossary lists
  • Typeset complex mathematical formulae, chemical equations
  • Create more complicated documents like posters, slides, and double-sided flash cards
  • Precise typesetting for many languages, this is especially useful for languages outside of the romantic languages family such as Arabic

Comparing LaTeX with word-processors

There are some contrasts with WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) word processors like Microsoft Word or Open Office.

There are some advantages of using WYSIWYG processors:

  • you wish to take advantage of the templates provided by MS Word, such as Resumes or business cards (You can create this in LaTeX also, especially if you choose Overleaf)
  • if you’re creating documents that have specific syntax, such as markup language for github readmes,
  • and if you’re creating very short files where formatting doesn’t matter (such as notes not meant for publication).

When common word processors attempt to handle large files, any major modifications to the file can break the table of contents, and automatic numbering of the tables/figures/lists are not reliable. Furthermore, for students working in multiple operating systems, transitioning between different operating systems using the same latex code will generate the exact same document – this precision is simply not guaranteed with most WYSIWYG processors.

With the above in mind, if you’re interested in learning about LaTeX as a beginner, I’ll be giving an introductory workshop at LSRI on November 13th, 2019.

Coming soon:

Disclaimer: Featured image source

Miscellaneous Updates

The very most recent news is that I have decided to join University of Illinois at Chicago to work on a PhD in Learning Sciences, with a focus on Mathematics Education. I’m very excited to join the Learning Sciences Research Institute (LSRI) in continuing my research!

I’m moving this July, and this site will see significantly more activity; especially WRT notes on math education! I’ll be compiling notes and some definitions here as a resource

Some Highlights of 2018-2019:

  • Spring 2018:
    • Received the Sally Casanova Scholarship for the academic year 2018-19 (See page 14 of this booklet).
    • Participated in the California Forum for Diversity in Graduate Education
    • Finalized all the code for my thesis
    • Teaching:
      • Math 199 – Precalculus
      • Math 227 (x2) – Calculus II (as TA)
  • Summer 2018
    • Generalized code to any dimension, final verification of code with Dr. Gubeladze
    • Worked on implementing California Executive Order 1110 – part of a team with tenured faculty working on creating the curriculum for stretch courses.
    • Created a gradebook template and a lesson plan template for general use.
  • Fall 2018:
    • Applied to twelve PhD programs, and had a bit of an existential crisis because PhD applications can be grueling.
    • Worked on writing out my thesis, as most of my work was coding up to this point.
    • Defended my master’s thesis, “Computational Verification of the Cone Conjecture”
    • Teaching:
      • Math 107 – Math for Business Calculus I
      • Math 197 – Prelude to Calculus I
  • Spring 2019
    • Out of 12 I was waitlisted at one and accepted into two.
    • Finalized edits for my master’s thesis and submitted to archives
    • Updated LaTeX template for Masters Thesis for STEM majors at SFSU
    • Graduated from the Masters program!
    • First semester to finish grading finals not on the day that grades are due 😀
    • Teaching:
      • Math 108 – Math for Business Calculus II
      • Math 198 – Prelude to Calculus II

Updates on GitHub

Finally set up a github to house all the custom LaTeX files that I’ve created!

Will be updating this over time – this particular github is mostly meant for personal use, though I’m happy to share what I have and continue to update this github.

As I continue to create new tools, I’ll be hosting them here.

You’ll see currently the following repositories:

More on Website Infrastructure

After reading a bit on the support forums, I’ve learned that you can actually embed an entire PDF into a blog using google docs!

I’ll definitely be making posts soon that would embed some of my math notes, and experiment with how this site works. This seems common enough that I think I’ll continue sticking with google docs, which resolves an choice I mentioned in a previous post.


Reflection: Following My Passions

When I was in my late teens to early twenties, I knew I liked math but I wanted to try everything that would require application of math: I jumped from applied math to physics to engineering. I loved the process of learning, and I took a lot of different classes, and by the time I was halfway through the second semester of Mechanical Engineering courses, I finally realized that I was only really interested in the math, and talking about the math.

Then today, I went digging through my time-capsules on the internet. I have blogs scattered across a lot of different platforms, and I found this post over on Hubpages that I wrote in 2009. I’m pretty sure this reaffirms that I’ve always wanted to teach math.

Looking back, I’m glad that I took a long, winding path. I needed to grow a lot spiritually and emotionally before I was ready to take on teaching. Hopefully I’ll maintain my capacity for growth in the upcoming years.

Discovery of a Periodic Function while Reading Google Trends

So I wanted to look up some terms that I will commonly use on this blog over at Google Trends. I feel like I rediscovered the moon cycle…

The data shownabove compares the number of searches  of the terms algebra and geometry over time within the U.S., for the last 90 days, or approximately 3 months. Reading closely, we see that people search the terms “algebra” and “geometry” in a periodic way. Specifically, on the weekends, the amount of searches went down.

Great, now I have figured out that people don’t like to do homework on Saturday/Sunday… Well, we haven’t rigorously tested this theory with sufficient amount real data, since there’s no sample size or even an attempt at any calculation besides looking at a graph.

But, based on context clues I will bet that the null hypothesis would be rejected.

Website Infrastructure

The notes page is set up, next I aim to finish up organizing the precalculus resources and general non-math resources.

Now, the site contains links all my notes starting from Fall 2015, which send visitors directly to my google drive, but I wonder if that is secure/wise.

Maybe there is a better way to both host the files and allow for instant updates as I compile my LaTeX files. Right now, this blog links to individual files within my google drive which is synced to a directory on my laptop. When I compile on my computer, I work directly in that directory so that the file linked in google drive is automatically synced. I want the same functionality and convenience but I’m not sure if linking to the drive is secure, since it’s a personal account.

Time to do some non-math research~

Update: I hear that wordpress has great support, so I made a post at the forums. I wonder if there’ll be an easy solution?

Why a Blog?

So, why start a blog when there is approximately… 1.5 \times 10^{6} posts created per day? (Checked @ 8 AM 1/8/17)

For me, this website is a bit more than a collection of math notes and lists of resources. I am aiming to chronicle the challenges of being a student and a teacher at the same time. On the other hand, I want to also document the most fun parts of being in an intensive graduate program!

So this blog will be part survival guide, part chicken-soup-for-the-soul, and part scrapbook.

Oh. By the way, I survived the first semester of graduate school!