Tips for writing math and science articles

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This page is intended to contain useful information for authors of math and science articles, to make the presentation more uniform and of high quality. This is an adjunct to the Talk:Mathematics page.

Contents

General principles

Keep in mind that the goal of Conservapedia math and science articles is to be educational for middle school, high school, and undergraduate age ranges. It is not our goal to be "encyclopedic" in the sense of having comprehensive information for professional experts or researchers. Nor is it our goal to teach concepts below middle-school level. So, for example, we assume that the reader knows about basic arithmetic and such elementary scientific concepts as matter, electricity, and light.

In other words, we do not teach people how to add.

We also do not carry proofs of extremely advanced things like Fermat's last theorem, though we do discuss it at an appropriate level.

While we do not carry extremely advanced material, our goal is to challenge the reader, and to provide enrichment beyond what might be contained in traditional textbooks. If something is advanced, but you think you can explain it to the target age range, do so.

Keep these considerations in mind when writing articles. Try to explain things in a clear way, that will take the reader to the next level of understanding. Keep in mind what the prerequisites are for following the material in a given page, and indicate what those prerequisite pages are. For concepts that the reader may or may not already know, normal wikilinks to the indicated concept should suffice. In some cases, such as when the presentation in the prerequisite page is crucial, it may be necessary to mention that page explicitly in the introduction.

Notices of level of difficulty

Math and science articles at Conservapedia cover a fairly wide span of difficulty within the range of junior-high-school-age, high-school-age, and college-age students. (We are not really trying to target an audience outside of that range.) There is usually no way to write an article that engages the reader throughout all these levels, and some topics are simply not appropriate for some students. Therefore, we have created four templates that can be placed at the top of each article. They are:

{{Math-e}} (elementary school)
{{Math-m}} (middle school)
{{Math-h}} (high school / early college)
{{Math-a}} (advanced)
We recommend placing one of these at the top of each article, to offer guidance to the reader. In some cases, it may be appropriate to use additional templates on individual sections of an article.

Showing off

Ed Poor once complained about "grad students showing off" in the writing of math articles. Unfortunately, this has been a real problem. The statement about the rational numbers being a "totally disconnected set that is not locally compact" (moved to real number, and explained, a few hours ago), is a serious, but typical, case of this.

It does no good to put an advanced fact into an article aimed at less advanced people if you can't relate that fact to the things that the reader knows.
The fact that you happen to know some fact is not a sufficient reason to put it into an article.

The problem with the "disconnected set" statement is that it is defined in terms of a topological concept (connectedness) which is far beyond the scope of the article in which it was placed. Connectedness involves sets that are both open and closed. Without saying why a certain set would be both open and closed in the rationals but not in the reals, the reader can't possibly appreciate what is being stated.


The preceding is emphatically NOT meant as a criticism of recent edits in mathematical articles. The recent edits have generally been of high quality. It is just something that has been a problem in the past, and that we need to watch out for in the future.

Math markup

Articles often require the presentation of mathematical formulae. These are entered in a markup language that is a slightly restricted version of the LaTeX typesetting system (with some AMSLaTeX packages). See the Wikimedia help page for a brief introduction. There are many excellent tutorials on LaTeX available online, including The Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2e.

Any such formula must be in a "math markup" section, indicated by these html indicators:

<math>place the formula here</math>

The simplest way to create such a section is to click on the "square root sign" icon at the top of the screen, and then type the formula.

A few typesetting tips:

  • If you need to write vertically aligned stuff in braces, using the "\begin{cases}" mechanism, do not use \textrm inside the cases. It's legal LaTeX, but it doesn't work in Wikimedia. Use \mbox instead. See Fundamental group for examples.
  • The "\substack" command of LaTeX does not work in Wikimedia. Use "\stackrel" instead, as in
<math>\stackrel{a}{\widehat{B}}</math>

or

<math>\stackrel{\textstyle{\rightarrow}}{V}</math>

which produce

\stackrel{a}{\widehat{B}}

or

\stackrel{\textstyle{\rightarrow}}{V}
  • You can force the wikimedia software to use the full-blown "PNG" rendering of equations by putting the command "\," (backslash comma) at the end, just before the </math>. Normally, the software tries not to use PNG display if it thinks it can get away with it, because it believes (rightly) that PNG is computationally more taxing. So if the equation just has simple things like Greek letters, the software will try to use the Greek font that it has access to. That font is nowhere near as nice as the true PNG display. The LaTeX command backslash comma introduces an extremely tiny space at the end of the equation, which the display software can't handle except by going to PNG. Of course, if your equations has hairy integrals and such, you won't need to do this.

Pictures

Articles often need diagrams and graphs. A few available graphics software packages that might be useful are:

  • Winplot, from [1] (free, but not open source)
  • Inkscape, from [2] (free, open source)
There is a helpful page on using Inkscape to make technical diagrams here.

We do not have much experience with these packages, and would appreciate feedback on them (perhaps with examples of uploaded diagrams), or suggestions for other packages.

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