Encoding for Mathematics:

If the equations on the previous page don't look right, please read on.

Mathematical notation is quite difficult to represent in HTML; the language simply doesn't have the control required to lay out complicated expressions. There are several approaches to dealing with this problem. One is to make images of all mathematical equations, but this makes for slow-loading pages, and the images don't resize if you change the font size used to display the page. A similar method uses Java applets to typeset the mathematics on the fly.

The approach taken here is to use the Symbol font and HTML tables to lay out the mathematics. This has the advantage of fast downloads and gives the reader the ability to resize the mathematical equations, but has the disadvantage of not being able to represent everything well.

In order for this method to work, you must do the following:

Internet Explorer 4 on the Macintosh doesn't handle the symbol font correctly. Netscape 7 also suffers from this problem on both the Macintosh and under Windows, as do Mozilla and the other Gecko-based browsers. Apparently, the Gecko developers decided to disable the <FONT FACE="Symbol"> tag in an attempt to force web-page designers to use the unicode versions of the Greek characters. Unfortunately, this means Gecko browsers can't display older math pages, and since older browsers don't handle unicode, they would not be able to display newer math pages that use unicode. It might be worth making the change to unicode, except that Gecko doesn't implement all the unicode characters needed for mathematics (in particular the characters needed to make large parentheses), so it is currently impossible to make mathematics pages that display properly in Gecko-based browsers (except using images). We do not know of a work-around for this, other than using another browser. Although we have tried to reduce the use of the Symbol font, there are some times when it was required.

Here are some examples to see if you have things set properly:

This should be the greek letter "pi": p
This should be a square root sign:
This should be a plus with a circle around it:

Communications in Visual Mathematics, vol 1, no 1, August 1998.
Copyright © 1998, The Mathematical Association of America. All rights reserved.
Created: 24 Mar 2000 --- Last modified: Sep 30, 2003 7:16:36 PM
Comments to: CVM@maa.org