Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Mathematics on the WWW?

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Aug 13, 1998

Posted to WWWDEV 13 August 98

You may be wondering where mathematics is heading on the internet. To this point, the best solution has been to create hundreds of small images representing equations, mathematical symbols, and the like. This is changing. Enter the Mathematics Markup Language (MathML). Designed as a subset of XML, MathML formalizes the display of standard mathematical symbols.

To view MathML, users today need to add a MathML viewer plugin to their browser (eventually broswers will support MathML internally). One such is offered by IBM: TechExplorer

Info: MathML: TechExplorer:


MathML (Excepted from the W3C site listed above)

This specification defines the Mathematical Markup Language, or MathML. MathML is an XML application for describing mathematical notation and capturing both its structure and content. The goal of MathML is to enable mathematics to be served, received, and processed on the Web, just as HTML has enabled this functionality for text.

This specification of the markup language MathML is intended primarily for a readership consisting of those who will be developing or implementing renderers or editors using it, or software that will communicate using MathML as a protocol for input or output. It is not a User's Guide but rather a reference document.

This document begins with background information on mathematical notation, the problems it poses, and the philosophy underlying the solutions MathML proposes. MathML can be used to encode both mathematical notation and mathematical content. Twenty-eight of the MathML tags describe abstract notational structures, while another seventy-five provide a way of unambiguously specifying the intended meaning of an expression. Additional chapters discuss how the MathML content and presentation elements interact, and how MathML renderers might be implemented and should interact with browsers. Finally, this document addresses the issue of MathML entities (extended characters) and their relation to fonts.

While MathML is human-readable it is anticipated that, in all but the simplest cases, authors will use equation editors, conversion programs, and other specialized software tools to generate MathML. Several early versions of such MathML tools already exist, and a number of others, both freely available software and commercial products, are under development.


TechExplorer (Excepted from the IBM site listed above)

IBM's techexplorer Hypermedia Browser is the web browser plug-in for people who read or publish scientific articles, books, journals, courseware, or even homework on the Internet. This product supports hypertext, multimedia, pop-up menus, and extensive user customization. It dynamically formats and displays documents containing scientific and mathematical expressions that are coded with a subset of the popular TeX and LaTeX markup languages. The Professional Edition of techexplorer provides a programming interface so authors can create dynamic web documents that interoperate with Java and JavaScript code.

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