Introducing TeXmacs to students: advice and support?

Hello there,

I was a little absent on the forums in the past weeks since the semester started. I am currently in my last year of a math postdoc at University of Virginia: teaching and applications are overwhelming.

At UVA we have a weekly or fortnightly meeting for students interested in math called Math Club.

I volunteered to do several workshops to introduce students to mathematical tools in computers

Some things I will talk about are

I already use GeoGebra when teaching multivariable calculus and it is a fantastic tool for quick exploration of Euclidean geometry.

Jupyter and Mathematica
I will also mention Jupyter/Ipython and Mathematica/Wolfram Cloud as convenient CAS. I am not happy about advertising Wolfram Cloud, but I must admit to its convenience and ease of entry

** LaTeX and Tikz**
The usual suspects

I really want to suggest to students to get acquainted with TeXmacs.

I must admit that while I am fully supportive of TeXmacs I feel a little self-conscious about talking about a tool that is not “mainstream” in academia. This is made more of an issue because of me being a more junior and non-permanent member of faculty.

For this reason, I wanted to ask for advice and moral support here. Have any of you had experience introducing students (especially lower-level undergrads considering math as a major) to TeXmacs?

I have seen multiple discussions about adoption of TeXmacs in journals/academic publishing. I fully agree with opinions about shortcomings of (La)TeX. However, has anyone ever encountered pushback and managed to find common ground? Any advice?

Finally, I wanted to make a comment about CAS. I believe Wolfram Mathematica has two very large advantages over Jupyter.

  • For beginners, its syntax is strangely close to how one writes math. You can quickly start using Wolfram Mathematica like a calculator on steroids and then, once you encounter more complex problems you expand your knowledge and adapt to Mathematica’s syntax. This is not the case in Jupyter. For basic things in Mathematica you are writing math, in Jupyter you are programming python. Mathematica even has a rudimentary WYSIWYG editing mode. It is ridiculously bad w.r.t TeXmacs but it is better than Jupyter’s python input.

  • Mathematica has LOADS of examples. You start typing, you see a familiar name (e.g. Plot), you click F1 and you have a popup with so many worked through examples that you can learn very quickly.

A question and a suggestion: (related to point 1)

What is the current state of TeXmacs as CAS with WYSIWYG input? Is there a way to write a WYSIWYG integral and make some plugin compute it for you? What about solve a linear system of equations? I will try to investigate further but if anyone has links to resources, I would be grateful.

Thank you all once again for the support in my journey to learn TeXmacs! Any words of encouragement or helpful resource links are appreciated. I am now hoping to pass on this knowledge to students.


Well, I will be using it when teaching this semester. But I have no experience so far. I’m also pretty sure you can do the CAS stuff you mentioned. Take a look at this video:
Around 1:17:25 Mr. @vdhoeven talks about Maxima integration.

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I never did a public presentation on TeXmacs; taken for granted that one talks about ease of writing and ease of obtaining structured documents, I would also talk about programming TeXmacs.

One point which I have in very loose focus, but can maybe made sharp, is that it is possible to use a TeXmacs macro within a TeXmacs macro “almost always” (I cannot define “almost always”) while with LaTeX environments / macros one will “often” (I cannot define “often” either) not be able to do it. I vaguely recall not being able to put a LaTeX theorem environment within a frame, but I would have to spend some time before I get a not-working example.

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Take a look at Graphical Interface in TeXmacs for doing symbolic mathematics using Maxima and Issues with the Maxima-plugin solving integrals from using mathematical input (I did not go through the details and did not try it).

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I’ve presented on the use of TeXmacs in teaching to academic colleagues a few times. I have never encountered any antagonism. Some people seem to be interested and ask questions. Some (perhaps many) may be indifferent, but I wouldn’t expect pushback, really.

I would just demonstrate how TeXmacs can save a lot of time and effort when writing and doing research. Then it’s up to the students to bite and look further into the details.

A remark about Jupyter: Jupyter is an interface to many different programming languages, not just Python (in fact, the name itself is a reference to Julia, Python and R). It’s not surprising that generic Python is not as suitable for mathematics as Mathematica, as they are very different tools. A comparison between Mathematica and perhaps SageMath (Python based, but integrated with many mathematical software packages), would be more appropriate.

Thanks for the advice! I am much more reassured.

I am familiar with Sagemath. That system, while being closer to “math” still lacks the WYSIWYG math input and being more pythonic rather than mathematic is still kind of an issue.