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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Hans Aberg <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 21 Feb 1997 10:57:48 +0100
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
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Richard Walker <[log in to unmask]> writes:

>The main `problem' (if it is a problem) is that there is no consistent
>story taught in schools.  One school will teach a student to write
>e.g. a date in one format; the neighbouring school will teach a
>different format.  When children grow up, they use the format they
>were taught - they aren't interested in conforming to a standard.

  Creating a standard is no heaven, because in Sweden, all high schools are
teaching the same stuff, made up by a educational authority, but then if
you are teaching undergraduate courses with say the computer program
MATLAB, the students get deeply upset (to the border they refuse to use
it), because, as they think, MATLAB does not conform to the "standard"
mathematical names for the inverse trigonometric functions. Of course, the
Swedish educational authority just made up something that seems to work
fine in Swedish high schools, and the fellows who made MATLAB just took
something they knew of, the US standard.
  When teaching such students from books written by Swedish university
mathematicians, the same problem arise, because the latter do not know
about the stuff taught at Swedish high schools, so those undergraduate
books, written in Swedish, use another standard.
  Then, again, these Swedish university mathematicians are often very
conservative, so they do often not use the more up-to-date mathematical
standards that seems to arise internationally by some general consensus.
  Returning to those students, they get upset if the blackboard
computations do not look like in a typeset book, as they are used to from
high school, so teaching them how to multiply together say a large
expression, carefully marking down the substeps you have taken, is quite
difficult. So here, typographical "standards" become a burden.
  (The correct way of teaching is, of course, always teaching some general
principles, and learning the students how to specialize from that, but this
is clearly rather requiring both on the teacher, and the students, so it is

  I think there is a difference between a standard that is intended to be
ruling, and one that is intended to be descriptive of actual useage. A
standard that is descriptive, will aid the users intent, and help not
making style breaks, and the like.

  Of course, if you look at the AMSLaTeX package, and all other
mathematical stuff, it is descriptive: You have some notions you want to
describe (which could be dates), and use various notation (or formats) for
that description. Trying to make a ruling standard, would just make it
difficult forwarding mathematics.

  Hans Aberg