## LaTeX TMA template

Despite what I said in my last post about how difficult LaTeX was to learn compared to how much use I’d probably get out of it … Well, I’d already invested the time in learning it, so why not give it a proper go?

I decided to make a proper template based off the ideas in MST125 Unit 2 (which is available for OU students to view, but they must be logged in).  For any experts out there who are bothered by the methods used, please keep in mind that this was literally my first day with LaTeX.  It gets the job done, and looks pretty … well, prettier.  Some features of the template:

• Put your name, personal identifier, and TMA number in once, and the title section and footer on every page is updated from it
• Typing \section{} will not just give the new section, but type Question # for you, with # being the next section number
• Subquestions are likewise auto-incremented on every \item
• The text font is a Helvetica sans-serif clone, but the maths font is still serif, making it easier to read

Obviously some parts will need to be cut and pasted, or otherwise modified to your needs.  The actual template I’m using, for instance, is slightly different in that it has a multi-line header instead of a footer, and it’s greyed out rather than having a delineation to match my Word template from last year. (Well, it was.  I’m starting to like this template more.)

Anyway, here’s the template I’m using for MST124.  I’m not taking MST125, so I don’t know whether or not this is part of a TMA question in and of itself.  If it is (or, frankly, even if it isn’t), please keep OU academic integrity practices in mind.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{amsmath}
\usepackage{amssymb}
\usepackage{enumitem}
\usepackage{fancyhdr}

\def\identifier{F0000000} % change this to your OU personal identifier
\def\tmanumber{TMA 00} % change this to appropriate TMA number or TMA title
\def\presentation{MST124-17J} % change to module presentation or TMA subtitle

\pagestyle{fancy}
\lfoot{\myname}
\cfoot{Page \thepage}
\rfoot{\identifier}
\renewcommand{\footrulewidth}{1pt}

\author{\myname, \identifier}
\date{} % remove this line to have date printed on title section
\title{\tmanumber\\\bigskip\normalfont\large{\presentation}}

\parindent 0pt % remove for paragraph indent
\parskip 4pt % also remove this for paragraph indent

\usepackage{titlesec}
\titleformat{\section}{\normalfont\Large\bfseries}{Question \thesection}{0em}{ }

\usepackage{nimbussans}
\renewcommand*\familydefault{\sfdefault} % remove for serif font

\begin{document}
\maketitle
\thispagestyle{fancy}
\section{} % writes Question and incremental number
\begin{enumerate}[label=(\alph*)] % auto-formats item decoration
\item First subquestion.
\item Second subquestion.
\item Third subquestion.
\end{enumerate}

\newpage
\section{}

\end{document}

## MST124 Materials arrived

Well that was earlier than expected!  I didn’t expect them to ship the books for MST124 out for another two weeks, but they were waiting for me when I arrived home yesterday.

The box is heavy.  My son picked up just one of the books inside and grunted under the weight.  It seems to be about a quarter acre of rainforest in the box.  The box contains:

• MST124 Book A
• Unit 1: Algebra
• Unit 2: Graphs and equations
• Unit 3: Functions
• MST124 Book B
• Unit 4: Trigonometry
• Unit 5: Coordinate geometry and vectors
• Unit 6: Differentiation
• MST124 Book C
• Unit 7: Differentiation methods and integration
• Unit 8: Integration methods
• Unit 9: Matrices
• MST124 Book D
• Unit 10: Sequences and series
• Unit 11: Taylor polynomials
• Unit 12: Complex numbers
• Computer Algebra Guide (about using Maxima)
• Handbook (74 page cheat-sheet you can take with you into the exam)
• MST124 Guide (as “worth while” as every other OU module guide)
• TMA form PT3 for posting assignments (Ha!)
• Specimen exam paper, new for this year
• Contents list

Here’s an “unboxing” photo with a bonus of my study area:

I had a look through the guide, the handbook, and the computer algebra guide, and then searched through they Labyrinth of Hidden OU “Support” Forums to look for anything interesting to do before the site opens.

The first thing of note was that the guide actually encourages students to start as early as possible on the material (literally as soon as they get the books, and before the site opens) and stay ahead until they’re done and it’s time to revise.  Cool!  Finally a module for the hares!

I downloaded and installed Maxima, and will use it as required, but as soon as the module’s over I’ll go back to doing what I used to do: WolframAlpha.  Maxima basically takes the place of requiring everybody to buy an expensive graphing calculator.

Then I looked into typesetting.  I have a lot of conflicting thoughts on the typesetting.  The first is that during the exam, I won’t have a computer to make my work pretty, so I may want to simply practice writing it out by hand for performance sake.  As I browse through the specimen paper, I don’t think this is much of a concern.

So for computer typsetting of my TMAs, I can either use LaTeX or MS Word’s equations.  (Or OpenOffice, I suppose, but I’m intentionally using MS through this degree course.  Another option would have been to use LibreOffice with the TexMaths LaTeX plugin.)  Last night I went through the guides for both.

Going in, I thought that LaTeX would be the better solution, as everybody glows about it.  It’s more work to learn, but apparently worth it in the long run.  In my opinion, the long run would have to be very, very, very long indeed.  It took about five times as long to learn as Word, because in addition to speaking its language for the maths, you also have to build the entire document around it.  Making a decent TMA template would probably take an initial few hours to get it looking as good as Word, with researching all the required functionality.  That said, if I were doing an entire maths degree, or was writing a book or thesis, it’d probably be worth the investment.  It’s absolutely professional quality.

Word, however, was much easier, quicker to learn, and was just barely behind in professionalism.  The only drawback was that the size of dynamic brackets wasn’t as nice as it was in LaTeX.  In exchange, you get to not worry about the rest of the document, easier and more intuitive codes, the ability to avoid codes altogether and instead point-and-click, instant rendering and feedback, and the data is then extremely portable rather than locked in a PDF.  If I need to write equations in another module (as I had to on every TU100 TMA) or elsewhere in life, the Word experience is also more portable.  If I needed complete control and customisation, then I’d probably opt for LaTex, but don’t see that happening in my current life tragectory.  It’s possibly worth it to learn the LaTeX codes, however, as they can be used in the Open University forums.

There are a few pre-module tutorials they’re running through September, and I’ll probably check one or two out, but I’m not that concerned.  After the Khan Academy prep I did this summer, I’m pretty confident already with about half the module.