Communicating Mathematics Through Homework

Learning mathematics at Harvey Mudd College involves learning how to communicate your ideas effectively. As a student, much of this communication will be in the form of homework. Therefore, so that we may provide you with meaningful and worthwhile feedback, it is important that you put your homework in an easy to read, easy to navigate format. After all, how you present your work should enhance the ideas you are trying to communicate, not impede them.

Suggested Homework Format

With that goal in mind, the following are some suggestions for submitting homework in your mathematics courses:

  • Your handwriting should be legible.
  • Homework with multiple pages should be stapled in the upper left-hand corner.
  • In the upper right-hand corner you should write (in this order)
    • Your Name
    • Your Class and Section Number
    • The Homework Set Number
    • The Due Date of the Homework
  • Problems should be clearly labeled and numbered on the left side of the page. There should also be a visible separation between problems.
  • Each solution should begin with the original problem statement.
  • You should leave the top left margin and the entire left margin blank so that graders may use this space for scoring and comments.
  • To ensure that each problem is graded, problems should be written in the order they are assigned.
  • It is good practice to first work out the solutions to homework problems on scratch paper, and to then neatly write up your solutions. This will help you to turn in a clean finished product.
  • Some classes allow you to work jointly on assignments. You should write up your solutions by yourself, unless you are specifically told otherwise by your instructor. Also, you should always acknowledge any help received, at the top of the assignment or in the margin.

Using LaTeX to Format Your Homework

The department provides a LaTeX class file and supporting templates and instructions that you can use to format your homework. By using the class, you can have all the power of LaTeX for typesetting your mathematical expressions and textual answers as well, with none of the hassles that come with Word, and none of the worries that come with writing your solutions by hand!

The class, templates, and documentation are maintained on our GitHub page, labeled the Harvey Mudd College Problem Set Class (LaTeX).

The following links are to the latest version of the class, available from our GitHub page:

Using the Homework Class

hmcpset.cls is the class file, which must be located in your TEXMF path. The class is installed in the /shared/local/texlive/texmf-local texmf tree, so can be used on a departmental system without downloading anything.

Homework assignments using the class should

  • Set your name, the name of the class name, the assignment number, and the due date in the preamble of your document (before the \begin{document} command) using the \name\class\assignment, and \duedate commands. This information will automatically be placed in the upper-right corner of your typeset document.
  • Specify a list of the problems in the assignment using the \problemlist command. This command should be placed immediately after \begin{document}.
  • Place problem statements in problem environments, which enclose the text in the environment in a clearly visible box.
  • Place solutions to problems in solution environments directly following the problems.

The distribution includes a template file, hw-template.tex, that you can use as a base to create new documents. There is also an example document, hw-example.tex, which illustrates the proper use of the class file and its various commands and environments. (You can download a PDF version to see what the example homework document should look like when typeset.)

hw-faq.tex is a small example file that addresses some frequent concerns and questions about the use of LaTeX. It also contains some links to other LaTeX resources. As with the sample assignment, a PDF version is available.