3 min read
Article URL: Comments URL: Points: 1 # Comments: 0
1.1 Mathematics and its Notation

A distinguishing feature of mathematics is the use of a complex and highly evolved system of two-dimensional symbolic notation. As J. R. Pierce writes in his book on communication theory, mathematics and its notation should not be viewed as one and the same thing [Pierce1961]. Mathematical ideas can exist independently of the notation that represents them. However, the relation between meaning and notation is subtle, and part of the power of mathematics to describe and analyze derives from its ability to represent and manipulate ideas in symbolic form. The challenge before a Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) in enabling mathematics on the World Wide Web is to capture both notation and content (that is, its meaning) in such a way that documents can utilize the highly evolved notation of written and printed mathematics as well as the new potential for interconnectivity in electronic media.

Mathematical notation evolves constantly as people continue to innovate in ways of approaching and expressing ideas. Even the common notation of arithmetic has gone through an amazing variety of styles, including many defunct ones advocated by leading mathematical figures of their day [Cajori1928]. Modern mathematical notation is the product of centuries of refinement, and the notational conventions for high-quality typesetting are quite complicated and subtle. For example, variables and letters which stand for numbers are usually typeset today in a special…
Read full article