Microsoft Mathematics Add-In

I have a confession to make: All of my teaching documents are created in MS Word. Among professional mathematicians, this is heresy. Don’t get me wrong, I know and love and appreciate all the features of LaTeX. In fact, in graduate school, I took my laptop with me to classes and took lecture notes “real-time” in LaTeX, keeping a running, self-updating Index, Table of Contents, and Bibliography.

I even really like writing in LaTeX, I like coding graphics and figures in TikZ, and for a while my favorite hobby was writing the LaTeX code for a great out-of-print book called Algebras, Lattices, and Varieties:Vol I (by McKenzie, McNulty, Taylor, ISBN 0534076513). In fact, you can see the PDF output of my efforts on Ralph Freese‘s course homepage for his universal algebra class. So for stuff I want to look really “pretty” (like the paper I published or my PhD dissertation), I’m down with all the LaTeX fans.

The problem is that I generate a lot of teaching documents. I provide my students with complete lecture notes for my courses, and as they will happily complain, they end up with a three-inch binder of printed materials. So I need something that I can quickly create and edit from a variety of places. Getting WinEdt installed with all the LaTeX packages I use, on machines that I don’t own or Administrate, it is beyond my threshold for acceptable frustration. So, hello Microsoft Word, my dear old friend!

Mathematics in Microsoft Word
If you haven’t used the built-in Equation Editor in Microsoft Word in a while, you might be happily surprised with what it can do now. First, I can input an equation easily using [Alt]-[=], and they are WYSIWYG. No compile/view/re-compile process! Second, it has gotten a lot easier to save a Word document as a PDF file. (I should say that I’ve had some difficulty getting the PDF producer to “play nice” with parentheses, but in that case I can always revert to CutePDF.)

Third, and most important, the Equation Editor has learned some LaTeX. It knows the stuff you use most often: Things like “\ldots” and “\delta” and “\Int_0^2” all do exactly what you think they should. It even has some {align} or {eqnarray} environment functionality, where you can align a series of equations at an equals sign.

But none of this is as cool as the Mathematics Add-In.

Microsoft Mathematics Add-In
It’s a computational engine that will display graphs, solve equations, and do lots of things your favorite graphing calculator can do, too. It’s available free at 

It will generate awesome graphs of multivariable functions easily:

Did I mention that it is free?!?

If you want some quick documentation on how to use the Add-In, check out these Dropbox files: docx format or pdf format.

If you want some longer documentation, Microsoft has a support webpage with even more information. I found out about the Mathematics Add-In from a brief article I read, I think in The Mathematics Teacher, that I can’t find now! It made me scream, “How come no one told me about this sooner?! It’s awesome!” So check it out.