Pressing Toward the Prize

Posts Tagged ‘LaTeX

It’s hard to believe that I just finished my first week of spring semester at Pacific Lutheran University. When fall semester ended in December, I had such high hopes for working on my Capstone project during the break, but life took an unexpected turn. My house sold after being on the market for only a week, so I spent Christmas break moving, spending time with my dad, and getting settled in my new home as best I could. Then J-term started, and that was a wild four-week ride through Tudor England, and a noble attempt at learning ballroom dance!! To top it off, I had a family crisis during the first week of J-term, and it is continuing to impact my life. The week between J-term and spring semester was filled with doctor appointments, the application process for grad school, the GRE, and more unpacking and organizing. I only had time to read a little in Donald Saari’s book, Chaotic Elections, and that was a far cry from what I had hoped to accomplish.

So here I am, back at it. This is my final semester at PLU, at least that’s the plan, and my Capstone project is due in May. Although I find myself a bit under the gun and nowhere near where I had hoped to be at this point, I will continue moving forward. My immediate goal is to refresh my LaTex skills by completing the assignment we were given this week. I hope to also continue reading Chaotic Elections and begin formulating my project outline. I’ll check in next week and report how it goes… wish me luck!!

Here we are at the end of the fall semester, and that means we are halfway through the Capstone process. This semester has been quite a learning experience for me. I remember being terrified at the prospect of doing a blog for all the world to see, because I have never done anything like that before. I’m not a texter, and I don’t follow Twitter or FaceBook, so this is a whole new realm for me. Why would anyone care what I have to say? I still don’t know the answer to that, but the good news is that I survived, and I found it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

This semester I also learned how to use the mathematical typesetting program, LaTex, as well as the Beamer package that creates presentation slides. Our professor gave us awesome templates to use, so that was very helpful. We also practiced reading and “understanding” mathematics articles, and it was no surprise that I’m not very good at it. It takes a while to digest the information, if one can even follow what is being said in the first place. Those are the times when a translator would come in handy!! I have enjoyed being exposed to some of the math that is being studied by way of faculty, students, and literature, and if I had time, there are many topics I would love to pursue. But for now, I will be focusing my attention on my own Capstone project, The Complexities of Voting, and the linear algebra I will need in order to understand the articles and books on the subject!!

As part of our Senior Capstone, each of us who is majoring in math will be writing a research paper that will involve mathematical notation and formatting. In anticipation of this, we are currently learning to use LaTeX, a mathematical typesetting language that will allow us to produce academically sound, professional-looking documents. Our first assignment in the learning process was to re-create a document crafted by our professor in order to give us exposure to the various aspects of LaTeX.

After attending an introductory LaTeX session, printing off a sample document with accompanying code, and finding an online tutorial, I set out on my adventure. The process of writing the code to reproduce the professor’s document was a bit cumbersome, because I had to stop and look up how to do nearly every component!! Of course, not every command was readily available, and I had to learn how to “tweak” the examples to write code that would produce the specifics I needed. I discovered that many of the commands are fairly intuitive in that they are often a simple description of the symbol or function you want to create, which is nice. For example, to produce the symbol “is an element of” you type “\in,” for “greater than or equal to” you type “\geq,” or to center something, you type “\begin{center}…\end{center},” and so on. But like other computer programs, LaTeX wants what it wants when it wants it, and part of the trick is finding out what that is in any given situation!!

LaTeX does have some interesting idiosyncrasies, however, that I found quite humorous. To make something print larger than normal, one would use the command “\big,” for larger one would type “\Big,” and “\Bigg” would produce something larger still. But to go very huge, one could type “\Huge.” Isn’t that a hoot?!

All in all, I feel much better about learning and using LaTeX since I have “battled through” creating (or re-creating, if you will) a document myself. It was a very momentous occasion when I compiled the code and it actually produced the document exactly as it should have been. I couldn’t have been more proud (and thrilled) if I had just finished writing my first novel!

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  • gramsonjanessa: I can't wait to listen to your capstone presentation in the spring! Your proposal was really interesting and I'm interested to see how the linear alge
  • dewittda: This is impressive! I thought I was good because I solved a rubik’s cube once in an hour. I served with a guy in the Air Force who could solve a r
  • ZeroSum Ruler: The Euclidean algorithm should me the mainstream way we teach students how to find the GCF. Why isn't it? A mystery.