What is MathML?

Illustration of person holding a calculator

The Problem with Math on the Internet

Often times, mathematical equations contain characters or forms of notation that are difficult or impossible to produce with a standard keyboard.  In the past, people have often used specialized software to notate and work on these kinds of equations.   If a person wanted to share an equation notated by one of these special softwares, they’d have to share it as a static image.   

Doing it this way creates problems, however, as the image isn’t going to work for everyone.  Users with low vision won’t be able to scale the image, for example.  And assistive device users may not be able to access the image at all. 

The Solution:  MathML

That’s where MathML comes in.  MathML or Mathematical Markup Language is a way to represent mathematical equations on the internet or within digital content.  MathML is made up of XML code, which makes it more dynamic and adaptable than a standard image.  

Most browsers can render MathML without any extensions or additional software.  And you can write equations in MathML using a standard text editor.  There is also a variety of free software available to make writing equations in MathML easier.  

Equations represented in MathML are easily scalable and are compatible with assistive devices.   For this reason, MathML has become the standard recommended by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3). MathML is also compatible with the EPUB 3 format, making it ideal for authors of textbooks or other education digital content. 

Bottomline: MathML helps authors and educators present content in a more dynamic and accessible way. The adoption of this technology will help create more readily accessible educational environments and better support for assistive devices. As technologies like this develop and grow in popularity, students everywhere will have access to more dynamic and interactive learning materials.

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