I am taking an Introduction to Differential Equations class. There is assigned homework. It is specified that we must turn it in on paper.

Is it wrong or odd to use LaTeX and turn it in as computer generated instead of handwritten? I am in fact using a computer to do the assignment so it would be extra work to write it on paper.

  • 2
    This is the sort of thing that can be culture-specific, so please say where you are studying. Aug 28, 2016 at 14:42
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    To ask the obvious, why can't you ask your instructor or TA to clarify this? In some cases they might be happy to have you type in LaTeX (easier to read, probably not your first draft) and in others they would not be happy (latex solutions tend to not show all work, easier to plagiarize, etc.). Aug 28, 2016 at 15:15
  • I am in Florida, USA. We do not have TAs. I have not emailed her because it is due on Tuesday and she does not work on Mondays.
    – skarn
    Aug 28, 2016 at 15:39
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    Presumably the statement about turning it on paper menans that the professor wants a hard copy rather than a file emailed to him (perhaps because it's easy to mark up, for example). I've never heard of anyone refusing TeX'd assignments and insisting on handwritten ones.
    – anomaly
    Aug 28, 2016 at 22:31
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    @skarn I am pretty sure there are TAs in Florida, perhaps not at your institution. I think one of the informal learning goals is that if the assignment is due Tuesday and the instructor does not work Monday, you should have asked this on or before Friday. No one on StackOverflow can actually answer this question. If you use LaTex and print it out, then you will have met the letter of the instruction with minimal extra work.
    – emory
    Aug 28, 2016 at 23:22

4 Answers 4


I've seen it done by some students at Utrecht University, while I was a fellow student, and as Master/PhD teaching assistent. I think this was never frowned upon, and personally I'd have a slight preference even for LateX-ed homework, because it is guaranteed to be legible (although I've also seen homework that was poorly LaTeX typeset).


It's pretty hard to imagine any instructor being upset because your submission wasn't handwritten, especially if you're using online submissions as PDFs. Pencil doesn't always scan very well and the cellphone-to-PDF images are worse. I teach EE and I warn my students that if I can't read it, I'm not grading it and I'm not asking a grader to do it, either.

LaTeX is one way to do it but most of my students now type their work (for me and for other instructors) in Microsoft Word using the built-in equation editor. A small number are using the MathType addin (which can generate LaTeX). All of our lab instruments are networked, so if they need an oscilloscope screenshot, they just copy and paste from their browser. If they need a graph or a table analyzing their results, they do it in Excel or Matlab. If they need a schematic, they draw it in SPICE or Multisim. Handwritten submissions are disappearing.


LaTeX is good. No one will object.

Since the industry standard in math is currently some dialect of TeX for producing PDFs, there's certainly no harm in learning how to do this, or in doing it.

Indeed, for upper-division math, certainly for graduate-level math, and absolutely for professional academic math, do not try to get by with whatever kludges "Word" offers. It just does not work as well (at least for the time being... who knows what the future holds?)

Even if one might reasonably claim that details of formatting don't matter too much to actual mathematics... first, they kinda do affect readibility... second, deviation from current standards both impedes readibility and makes one look like an outsider.

In particular, I'd think your instructors would surely tolerate "Word" documents from lower-division undergrads, at some point they'd recommend switching to (La)TeX. To get one's foot in the door, a certain amount of conformity can be helpful, as otherwise-meaningless as it may be.


To contrast with the apparent consensus; I was a math teacher at a university in the US for several years. Periodically I would have someone turn in their homework in LaTeX. This sounds good, except about half the time they didn't really know how to write LaTeX, so there were a lot of using words in math mode, not knowing the appropriate symbols, jot formatting properly, and so on. Those students' work was very hard to read and I would much prefer to have gotten handwritten assignments from them, even though their handwriting was pretty terrible.

So I would say, if you're good at LaTeX, great! Go for it. Almost certainly the teacher only asked for paper to save the trouble of printing them out - grading is easier with a paper copy. If you're bad at LaTeX, learn it on the side if you like, but handwrite your assignments.

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