On other SE sites like Physics, Math, MathOverflow, we have the possibility to write equations in what is called 'MathJax'. This allows you to write equations the way you would write them in LaTeX, which will also get them rendered in the same way as they would be in a pdf generated by LaTeX code. This is incredibly useful when one wants to write clear mathematics.

Since a large part of our site is focused on the history of mathematics, I think we should get MathJax as well, since you run into ugly and unreadable texts otherwise (e.g. my recent answer about complex numbers, although it's not that bad). Do you guys agree?

Update (02/11/2014):

From the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this question, it has become clear that this community agrees that we need MathJax. A list of answers that could be significantly improved can be found in the answer by Logan Maingi. I will try to update that list continuously. Note that the current absence of MathJax inhibits some (including myself) to incorporate more mathematics into our post; this is a serious issue, and I hope we can soon get MathJax, so we will no longer be hesitant to formulate precise, mathematical answers. If anyone from the SE team reads this: Please let us know how we can get MathJax implemented here.

  • $\begingroup$ Put otherwise, what's the upside of not having MathJax support? I have never understood why many SEs don't have it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ @FranckDernoncourt MathJax introduces additional dependencies which slow down page loading times and increase sizes for all pages, even those which do not use it. Thus, Stack Exchange will not add it to sites which don't have a definite need for it. The way to demonstrate that we need MathJax is to compile a list of answers which would be significantly improved by the ability to typeset mathematics with MathJax. $\endgroup$
    – Logan M
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:34
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganMaingi Can't you load MathJax's additional dependencies only when a page contain some MathJax formula? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ @FranckDernoncourt I don't know the details of the implementation, so I can't comment on that, but from what I understand even for pages which don't have any math there will be an appreciable increase in load times, albeit smaller than those with math. You can probably find more information on MSE, see e.g. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4152/… $\endgroup$
    – Logan M
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:40
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    $\begingroup$ Till MathJax is implemented, one can use Chatjax bookmarklet to render equations (provided equations are written in proper syntax). Enjoy! $\endgroup$
    – hrkrshnn
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 16:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Danu et al. On afterthought, I have become a bit miffled at this situation (a polite understatement). Read my edited response and tell me where I am going astray. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ @J.W.Perry I'd suggest being a little bit more patient, considering we've only been in beta 4 days. In the past, SE has almost never enabled MathJax before the start of public beta, and only once it's been demonstrated that it's needed. Most likely right now we're being watched by one or two of the community managers. Major decisions about the site won't be made until all the CMs meet as a group to discuss our private beta, which I believe will happen on Monday if their scheduling has not changed recently. In most cases nothing happens before then in terms of software modifications... $\endgroup$
    – Logan M
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 5:33
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    $\begingroup$ ...If we demonstrated that the situation was something of an emergency, and that the private beta could not progress without MathJax, action might happen earlier, but at the moment the evidence we've presented isn't very strong. My compilation answer only has 3 questions listed, comprising less than 3% of the posts on this site. That hardly seems like cause for alarm, especially on a time scale of 4 days. If you really want to speed this up, the best thing to do is find more examples of posts that could be improved, or better, post them yourself. $\endgroup$
    – Logan M
    Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ @LoganMaingi Your perspective is well taken by me. That is probably exactly what I needed to hear, and when I added that rant I knew full well I needed to be set straight. I will definitely leave the rant up, but you make a strong point on the timeframe here. This just started. Moreover it is the weekend, and it is actually doing pretty well so far in my opinion. I will resume patience. I really am quite happy that we finally made it to this stage. Thanks for setting me straight. In the end, I expect we will get our MathJax, and from the looks of things we can survive well until that time. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 1, 2014 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ Philosophy stack exchange applied for MathJax but was denied because they couldn't demonstrate sufficient need. meta.philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/43/… $\endgroup$
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Conifold I'm trying to keep up the list of questions where we would greatly benefit from MathJax. $\endgroup$
    – Danu Mod
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 19:54

6 Answers 6


Nice Job. MathJax support is clearly needed here, so…

$$ \Huge MathJax: ACTIVATED $$

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    $\begingroup$ Great news! Thank you so much $\endgroup$
    – Danu Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 17:35

We should have MathJax here. Here is a list of questions for which answers could be significantly improved via use of MathJax. Feel free to add your own examples. Stack Exchange will not enable MathJax on this site until we have demonstrated a need for it (as has been the case for previous beta sites, see e.g. on Math Educators).

  1. Which came first, the natural logarithm or the base of the natural logarithm?
  2. What evidence is there that Fermat had a proof for his Last Theorem?
  3. When did physics texts start to teach Kepler's 3/2 power law as a result of Newton's 1/r^2 law of gravitation, rather than the other way around?
  4. What mathematical developments/discoveries caused imaginary numbers to gain acceptance at the time (18th century) they did?
  5. How and when was Bolzano's proof of the Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem rediscovered? (Had to cut a section out which was impossible to type without MathJax)
  6. What is the reason for the 'electromagnetism terminology' when discussing the conserved quantities found through Noether's theorem?
  7. What is the modern significance of Theaetetus's classification of quadratic irrationals? (see comments)
  8. Concept of a function and Idea of a formula as a function
  9. What is the difference between Calculus of Newton and Leibniz?
  10. Ancient Chinese numbering system
  11. Irrationality of the square root of 2
  12. Timeline of measurements of the electron's charge
  13. When did Mathematics stop being one of "the Sciences"? (One answer has LaTeX waiting to be rendered)
  14. Why is American and French notation different for open intervals (x, y) vs. ]x, y[?
  15. Are there written (19th century) sources expressing the belief that the intermediate value property is equivalent to continuity?
  16. When was the short notation for large numbers first introduced and why?
  17. Conditionally convergent series
  18. When did it become possible to predict the time and place of solar eclipses?
  19. Were transcendental numbers considered rare, pre-Cantor?
  20. Did Gauss find the formula for $1+2+3+\ldots+(n-2)+(n-1)+n$ in elementary school?
  21. When and on what basis was it decided that an hour have 60 minutes and a minute have 60 seconds?
  22. When was Zero actually introduced in mathematics ?
  23. What does Lagrange mean in this passage from Reflexions sur la résolution?
  24. The history of different constructions of tangent spaces
  25. What sorts of calculations called for the invention of logarithm tables?
  26. What does Lagrange mean in this passage from Reflexions sur la résolution?


In addition to math, we will also be discussing the history of physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. All of these use math to some extent.


Yes, please. I expect technical questions and answers will by necessity use a significant amount of formulas, and MathJax and LaTeX will be very useful here.

For instance, I am in the process of writing a question related to the intermediate value property. It makes sense to include at least the definition, even if the question is not about the mathematical details of the notion.

If I is an interval, and f : I → ℝ, we say that f has the intermediate value property if and only if whenever a≠b are points of I, if c is between f(a) and f(b), then there is a d between a and b with f(d)=c.

This is a fairly simple example, and already it was uncomfortable to write in a legible manner due to the lack of ready access to standard symbols.

Other questions will surely discuss actual technical details of mathematical notions, or physical laws, etc, and for those the need will be even more apparent.

  • $\begingroup$ (For those curious, the question I mentioned is here.) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 13:45

I am very surprised to see that MathJaX has not been implemented here yet. I have very little to ask or say where mathematical statements and MathJaX is not involved.

The idea that MathJaX should be added after the fact once it has been demonstrated that the site could be significantly enhanced by the typeset is not well thought out. When a tool is not available, posters tend to curtail and present their posts to look good without the utility of the typeset functionality. They may not even ask or answer certain questions knowing full well that they cannot present the sort of content that would be optimal with proper typeset functionality.

This is a site about the History of Science and Mathematics. You tie our hands and stifle our ability to speak in our natural language right from the outset when you deprive us of our primary means of communication right from the outset.

This is not merely a history site, it is a History of Science and Mathematics site, and the participants are primarily scientists and mathematicians who have a passion for our own history. I am at a total loss as to how this could have been overlooked.

The notion that comp time overhead or actual page load overhead is a real issue for users on a site with MathJaX versus users on a site without MathJaX in the year 2014 is pure malarkey. This is a hollow argument. I live in the rural USA, and this is a non issue. As for the users in the most remote places of the world, still on dialup, I expect even they might appreciate the improved quality of content from a site where people were not forced to either type ascii ugly or just not type at all.

Note as well for those who do not know how to LaTeX, there is a whole lot more functionality built into our MathJax than mere equations. We can express really great things, and enhance our posts with some pretty fine expression. It hurts no one reading this on any practical measurable level to have the functionality, and it will be a boon to our site early on. When I jumped on this proposal, I never thought for a second that we would not have this functionality.

ATTN SE: Turn on MathJaX.

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    $\begingroup$ Does anyone know how we can let the SE team know about this? $\endgroup$
    – Danu Mod
    Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 12:25
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    $\begingroup$ Very well put, J.W. I've upvoted all of the answers so far, but your arguments are best. I wonder whether stats.SE had to wait for MathJax because, after all, only some statistics questions have to use mathematical notation. $\endgroup$
    – Mars
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 5:16

Science and mathematics without any kind of mathematical symbols would look really weird. The first answer that I gave involved a mathematical symbol which is impossible to write without MathJax. So it is certainly essential.


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