Module 5: LaTeX as a Digital Literacy

Learning Goals

The learning goals for this module include:

  • Appreciate how LaTeX helps us communicate with math in digital environments.
  • Observe how using LaTeX teaches us about mathematics, programming conventions, and digital communication.
  • Learn about some of the communities that support LaTeX and LaTeX users.

Before You Start

Consider the ways you communicate electronically... these might include:

  • Posting homework on Google Classroom or other platform.
  • Using a blog or website.
  • Teaching classes using a Learning Management System, like Brightspace.
  • Attaching documents to email.
  • Sharing teaching resources in social media.
In communicating using these, or other methods, do you ever need to include mathematical content? Could using LaTeX help in any of these cases?

What are some strategies that could help you use LaTeX effectively across multiple applications and platforms? (Keeping a list of bookmarks to LaTeX resources? Keeping a text document of common LaTeX commands?)

Is there new software you need to learn how to use in order to use LaTeX effectively across platforms? (Screen caputre tools, the LaTeX editors in brightspace or Geogrbra, Overleaf, ...)

LaTeX as a Digital Literacy

As we saw in module 3, many online platforms are adopting LaTeX or LateX-based commands as a method of communicating mathematics. With choices between simple LaTeX editors (module 1) or cloud-based LaTeX document management systems (module 4), there are multiple ways of producing and sharing LateX based documents beyond the platforms that provide built in support. There is a growing LaTeX software ecosystem that is helping to secure LaTeX as the standard way to communicate mathematics, not only in the research community, but across the web and many digital platforms.

latex ecosystem

Part of being digitally literate means being able to communicate effectively using digital media, and being able to share your work within online environments (Spires & Bartlett, 2012). When you develop a digital literacy, you are empowered and more effective: you are using the tools available to you, but you are less tied to specific platform - you can quickly adapt to new platforms and share your work in new ways.

Literacies are not universally required - they may sometimes apply only within certain communities, professions, or for people with certain interests. Including mathematics in digital documents and on the web may seem to be somewhat of a niche activity. However, chalk boards and paper are being displaced by digital media, and the ability to write mathematics in these new media is becoming more essential. In this context, LaTeX can justifiably be seen as an emerging digital literacy that mathematics teachers should consider developing.

What LaTeX Teaches

Learning LaTeX prompts much collateral learning - it is a process that helps us learn more about mathematics, about the programming paradigm that LaTeX represents, and about how information is communicated on the web.
  • We use LaTeX in order to write nice looking mathematics, but as we use LaTeX, we also learn more about the notation and conventions of mathematics, and how mathematicians present mathematics.
  • As we use LaTeX commands and prepare LaTeX documents, we are using a form of programming that resembles other markup and presentation languages.
  • As we work with electronic documents, wikis, and cloud-based systems, we learn more about how the internet and digital environments work.
  • By being able to produce digital documents more effectively, new opportunities for communication and sharing are opened up, broadening our learning horizons.


As an established standard, LaTeX has had many resources created to support its use. Searching on any LaTeX-related question will bring up many articles, wikis, websites, and tutorials for all levels of users. There are also a number of active forums where information on LaTeX is shared, including Tex-StackExchange, StackOverflow, the LaTeX Community Forum, and the TeX User Group (TUG) .

Learn More

Explore one or more of the forums mentioned above - what kinds of questions are asked? Are any discussions relevant to questions that you have about LaTeX? Take a look at the list of TeX Resources on the Web posted by the TeX User Group.

Learning Checklist

Before moving on to the next module, take a moment to review the learning checklist.

If there were any items in the checklist that you did not complete, consider reviewing this page again before moving on.


Spires, H.A., Bartlett, M.E. (2012). Digital Literacies and Learning: A Path Forward. North Carolina State University College of Education. Retrieved February 26, 2019, from:

TeX Users Group. (2018). TeX Resources on the Web. Retrieved March 27, 2019 from