Why LaTeX?

For documents including more than one or two mathematical expressions, LaTeX offers teachers several advantages over an editor like Microsoft Word.

  • Including mathematical expressions in LaTeX involves typing a few appropriate characters. By contrast, including mathematics in Word requires Equation Editor, a cumbersome and slow graphical user interface
  • Because content is specified in a plain text file, tasks which would be laborious in Word can often be handled efficiently with search-and-replace or other time-saving mechanisms
  • For the preceding reasons, LaTeX offers significant long-run time savings
  • Many users find that typesetting in LaTeX becomes increasingly fun and convenient over time. By contrast, experience suggests that the frustrations of Word largely persist even for the expert user
  • Because LaTeX is open source, you can easily share your content with other teachers without version compatibility or licensing issues
  • Because LaTeX has been adapted to the needs of math and science research communities, you are unlikely to want notation unachievable in LaTeX
  • Repetitive tasks can more easily be automated. For example, producing practice sheets for students learning their times tables can be done a couple of seconds with the appropriate setup
  • LaTeX is sufficiently popular that forums and other internet resources provide good support for those interested in advanced features

It is worth mentioning a couple of downsides.

  • LaTeX has a learning curve. This is the price of the efficiencies afforded by dropping a graphical user interface like Word's equation editor, and the cost is certainly significant at first.
  • If you make a sufficiently important mistake in your code, LaTeX will give you error messages instead of an output file. Debugging time decreases pretty rapidly with experience, however.