Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

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Jot down a quick, accessible equation (or formula)

Posted by | 3 comments

Sometimes when you’re responding to a student question in the discussion, you absolutely need to use an equation. And sometimes, the nuisance of having to push all the buttons in the equation editor seems like a brutal punishment. (Especially before Desire2Learn v10.3) Well, there are some tools that let you quickly jot down an equation (or chemical formula, or symbolic logic statement) and convert that nicely in to MathML or LaTeX to paste in to Desire2Learn (D2L).

I’m a big fan of Web Equation, from Vision Objects. It does handwriting translation in to equations, plus it gives you the actual math markup to use in your online course in a format that can be easily copied and pasted in to D2L. Bonus – the equation is rendered nicely in D2L with the MathJax math rendering engine and stored in MathML so that screen readers can decipher the equation.

Here, for example, is an image of a square root of 16 drawn using Web Equation.

Square Root of 16, using Web Equation

Example of Web Equation converting handwritten equation in to a formula

But how do you get that in to D2L? Well, at the bottom, click on either LaTeX or MathML, and copy that corresponding code. Then, when you’re in your discussion post, click on the right-side of the insert equation button, and click on either MathML equation or LaTeX equation. They are different, so make sure you choose whatever you used when you created your question.

Insert either a LaTeX or MathML equation

Alternate options for inserting an equation include a LaTeX equation or a MathML equation.

Then, you paste the equation you copied from the Web Equation editor. It will render a preview for you to make sure it understands your equation. If you’re happy with the equation, simply insert it in to your post.

pasting LaTeX notation in to the D2L equation editor

pasting LaTeX notation in to the D2L equation editor

These are very simple equations, but they demonstrate a really powerful tool. You’ve undoubtedly gotten used to writing equations by hand, and for many, it’s a fast and effective way to create an equation. Give this tool a try and see if it fits your workflow. (Don’t worry, we’ve already asked D2L to add this functionality to the editor.)

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t push the Compute with Wolfram Alpha button.

Editor’s note 9/2/16: The tool was acquired by another company and is now operating under the name MyScript Calculator, and it’s available for iOS.

About Andy Freed

I'm the Manager of Technology and Support in the Distance Education department, where I oversee our infrastructure, technical support, and online student services group. I've been with the College since 2001 and have worked in several posit... more »


There are 3 comment for this article. If you see something that doesn't belong, please click the x and report it.

x by Linda Daugherty 2 years ago

I tried using this tool and was good down to the preview but when I went to insert it into the Discussion, it pasted a square with a strange symbol. Any idea what I need to do differently?

x by Andy Freed 2 years ago

Hi Linda,

If it was a yellow box with a ∑ symbol, that’s just a placeholder for the equation. Once you post it, it should show up the way you see in your preview.

x by Jessica Bernards 2 years ago

This is fantastic! Thank you SO much for sharing this! I plan on typing this up and sharing it with my online MTH 111 students as well!


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