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MathML

Introduction

MathML, which just celebrated its tenth anniversary, is the international standard for representing mathematics. MathML was designed to facilitate the archiving of mathematical documents, the conversion of mathematics to different formats, and the use of mathematics in electronic documents.

MathML is not the same as TeX or LaTeX. TeX is a 25-year old system for formatting mathematics which was designed originally for print documents whereas MathML is a method of encoding mathematics. Many persons still use TeX (or one of its many variants) since TeX source is easier to generate by hand than MathML. Also many persons like the appearance of print documents generated by the TeX formatter. However, the latest MathML formatters produce very attractive mathematics. For persons who want TeX source, there are a number of free applications that will convert from MathML to TeX.

Displaying MathML

One of the many advantages of MathML is that you can view or print an XHTML file containing MathML from any supporting web browser without the need for additional processing. Some browsers, including FireFox, have a built-in capability for displaying MathML while others, including Internet Explorer (IE), require the use of extensions. If you want to display MathML with IE, you will first need to install Design Science's free MathPlayer plug-in.

A helpful discussion of the best way to display MathML (for sighted viewing) using various combinations of operating systems and browsers is available at the website of the online Pacific Journal of Mathematics. A side-by-side comparison of mathematics displayed with TeX and with MathML intended for viewing using FireFox is available here. (Please note that this page seems not to display in IE.)

Use of IE and MathPlayer to view MathML is recommended where accessibility is a concern since MathPlayer includes options for both large print and spoken math and is compatible with screenreaders. You can read more about Design Science's committment to Accessible Mathematics at the linked page. (Contact Design Science or your screenreader provider for more information.)


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