## Tips on handwriting maths?

For the discussion of math. Duh.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

the tree
Posts: 801
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:23 pm UTC
Location: Behind you

### Tips on handwriting maths?

For those of you that occasionally have to pick up a pencil (or, dare I say it, a pen) I'd like to know how you tackle these issues:
• How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
• How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
• What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
• On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
• How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?

Beacons!
Posts: 213
Joined: Thu May 29, 2008 2:17 pm UTC
Location: The Grand Unifying Intermahweb

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

Write a rho in one line, backwards to how you would do a p. Start at the bottom of the circle, go anticlockwise and then backwards on the page to do the tail. Then it looks good. That's what I always do.
"Woof!", explained the dog

Harg
Posts: 130
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 8:24 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I could probably count the number of times I've written the 'proportional to' symbol in my lifetime on the fingers of one hand. A severely maimed hand would probably suffice.
I..actually everyone I know writes rho with a sort of swirl in the middle so that it doesn't connect to the vertical part. It's a national defect I suppose.
I don't think I've had to modify any of my handwriting yet, although I do find it distressing that my sums and epsilons are converging to some strange glyph.
And I don't write on lined paper. Only blank and checkered, but I just ignore the grid anyway, so yeah.

ThomasS
Posts: 585
Joined: Wed Dec 12, 2007 7:46 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:For those of you that occasionally have to pick up a pencil (or, dare I say it, a pen) I'd like to know how you tackle these issues:
• How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
• How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
• What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
• On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
• How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?

I tend to stretch the proportional sign out, but partially that difference is by context and memmory.

When I write or print a 'p' it has a little tail - serif I guess - in the upper left corner. Not so rho. A lot of the lower case Greek letters require care to differentiate from the corresponding Latin letters. Let's see, I'm careful to curve the sides of nu if there 'v's around, and to to emphasis the left tail of mu if there are 'm's around, and for kappa I guess I am careful that height is constant, like a small capital 'K'. I write epsilon like a backwards three so that set inclusion is different. Lower case chi is also fun to differentiate, if there are 'X's around. Little eta needs more of a tail than 'n'. An oh yes, I try to avoid lined paper, otherwise I leave a blank line if I think I'm going to need an integral or quotient of size.
Last edited by ThomasS on Tue Mar 03, 2009 9:39 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

qinwamascot
Posts: 688
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 8:50 am UTC
Location: Oklahoma, U.S.A.

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I don't use proportional to signs very much, but this is how I'd look at it. Truncate each sign (the alpha and proportionality signs) to the left of the intersection. The result is 2 intersecting curves. For alpha, the curves are approximately linear to the right, and do not inflect. For the proportionality sign, the intersection point should be a point of inflection for both curves. The proportionality sign should take up approximately 1.5-1.75 character widths, while alpha should be about the size of a regular character. The proportionality sign should have spaces on either side as well.
For rho, it's best to angle it at about a 35-40 degree angle. The self intersection point should be the only point where the curve is not smooth. For p, there should be an obvious point at the top as well.
In topology, my book uses a large X for the cartesian product, but also denotes most sets by X. It's quite annoying. I now use the pi notation anyways, but I resorted to making the product sign angled at 45 degree angles, with X at about 75 degrees.
For almost any integral, I'll write it on 2 lines. If i need text on the same line, I take the upper one. Same for quotients. If I have a quotient with another fraction in the numerator or denominator, I write that one horizontally using /. I avoid writing larger fractions.
Quiznos>Subway

Qoppa
Posts: 694
Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 9:32 pm UTC
Location: Yes.

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

All large operators span two lines. So an integral, summation, capital pi for product, large union, etc all take up two lines. Occasionally I'll just ignore the lines when writing math.

I cross my Z's (upper case and lower case) so that they don't look like 2's. I write a cursive l when it's a variable so that it doesn't look like a 1, and sometimes I add serifs to my 1's to remove any ambiguity. I write my x's when they're variables with two strokes: a backwards 'c' and then a 'c'. An x that looks like a cross is for cross product or Cartesian product.

Code: Select all

_=0,w=-1,(*t)(int,int);a()??<char*p="[gd\~/d~/\\b\x7F\177l*~/~djal{x}h!\005h";(++w<033)?(putchar((*t)(w??(p:>,w?_:0XD)),a()):0;%>O(x,l)??<_='['/7;{return!(x%(_-11))?x??'l:x^(1+ ++l);}??>main(){t=&O;w=a();}

Incompetent
Posts: 396
Joined: Mon May 26, 2008 12:08 pm UTC
Location: Brussels

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I have a question: do you guys write capital Pi with or without serifs at the top? I tend to write it without serifs to distinguish it from small pi, and because it doesn't have serifs in most sans-serif typefaces. (My handwriting has few serifs generally because they don't add anything to legibility unless they are drawn very neatly.) But I notice most people write it just like a tall version of the lower-case pi, perhaps to distinguish it from a 'square cap'.

Also, how are people on script letters, and 'gothic' letters? I make most of them up as I go along, but it's difficult to think of ways to distinguish them from each other and from Roman letters while making it clear which letter of the alphabet you've scrawled.

Tac-Tics
Posts: 536
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2007 7:58 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?

Don't use that symbol in the first place. Just spell it out. The most prevelant use of alpha is a scalar value anyway, and if you're saying one thing is proportional to another, you can usually drop the scalar.

How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?

Emphasize the squareness of the upper part of p. Write your p's in two strokes and your rhos in one.

What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?

2's and z's and t's and +'s are far more common. I write my z's with a strike through. I write my t's with an emphasis on the tail at the bottom, but when I'm writing quickly, I still have trouble sometimes.

On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?

I usually leave a space between complicated lines, in case I need to make corrections or add notes above them. If I have a fraction that is somewhat complicated, I'll throw it on two lines.

the tree
Posts: 801
Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:23 pm UTC
Location: Behind you

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

Incompetent wrote:I have a question: do you guys write capital Pi with or without serifs at the top? I tend to write it without serifs to distinguish it from small pi, and because it doesn't have serifs in most sans-serif typefaces. (My handwriting has few serifs generally because they don't add anything to legibility unless they are drawn very neatly.) But I notice most people write it just like a tall version of the lower-case pi, perhaps to distinguish it from a 'square cap'.
I write the lower case really curly, so much so that the 'legs' more or less come from one point. Capital pi is all straight lines.
Incompetent wrote:Also, how are people on script letters, and 'gothic' letters? I make most of them up as I go along, but it's difficult to think of ways to distinguish them from each other and from Roman letters while making it clear which letter of the alphabet you've scrawled.
For script I try to just put loops in when they normally wouldn't be there, like when there is a long straight line, I'll go over it twice to make it a loop. For gothic I tend to use black-board-bold-esque straight lines.

Qoppa wrote:I write my x's when they're variables with two strokes: a backwards 'c' and then a 'c'. An x that looks like a cross is for cross product or Cartesian product.
That reminds me of a conversation I had in highschool, with the smartest kid in the class:

Smart kid: damnit, I've written an [imath]x[/imath] wrong. What the hell is wrong with me?
Me: How did you write it wrong?
Sk: I did the curve that was supposed to be on the right, on the left, and the one that's supposed to be on the left on the right.
Me: ...
Me: ...
Me: So... instead of an [imath]x[/imath], you wrote... a circle?
Sk: Yeah.
Me: You're an idiot.
Sk: Yeah.

Xanthir
My HERO!!!
Posts: 5423
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 12:49 am UTC
Contact:

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:For those of you that occasionally have to pick up a pencil (or, dare I say it, a pen) I'd like to know how you tackle these issues:
• How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
• How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
• What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
• On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
• How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?

1) I stretch it out, so it's about two characters long.

2) I draw a p by starting at the top of the vertical line, going down, then coming back up and shifting into a clockwise circle. I draw a rho by starting at the bottom of the tail (slightly serif), and in one fluid motion move up and into the clockwise circle. The two end up looking completely different.

3) I learned to draw my lowercase u without a downstroke at the end, so that it's distinct from several other letters (if I'm writing quickly, my r, v, s, n, and u look similar). I now cross my z to keep it from looking like a 2. I draw my 5 in two strokes (body first, then the top horizontal line) to keep it from looking like an s.

4) I try to. When I forget I end up hating myself.

5) Depends on how complex they are. If num/den are whole numbers, quotients use a diagonal line, like x/4. If they're simple expressions, I just write half-size. If they're complex, I write larger and let the num/den bleed into the prev/next line (which is why I try to skip lines).
(defun fibs (n &optional (a 1) (b 1)) (take n (unfold '+ a b)))

mister k
Posts: 643
Joined: Sun Aug 27, 2006 11:28 pm UTC
Contact:

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

Man, I could moan for a decade about the frustrating habit in mathematics of symbols to look like each other-rho and p, u and v. Indeed, during one first year course I was half asleep while writing out a derivation of Euler's pressure law (I think... something fairly complicated with many rhos and ps...) and completely confused myself later. It meant that I had to derive the damn thing myself...

I try and avoid using similar notation, but my rho's now look rather different to my ps- I make them swirly at the bottom. I have a tendency to stylise my greek letters beyond what is necessary, or accurate, figuring consistency is more useful.
Elvish Pillager wrote:you're basically a daytime-miller: you always come up as guilty to scumdar.

auteur52
Posts: 165
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 11:08 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I think I just finally got used to writing xi and zeta enough that they are starting to look right. I would say they're the toughest to write (except maybe aleph, still haven't really figured that one out).

Torn Apart By Dingos
Posts: 817
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 2:27 am UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I write ~ for proportionality instead of the symbol that almost looks like an alpha.

I have difficulty telling apart [imath]\vartheta, \nu, \upsilon, v[/imath] (vartheta, nu, upsilon, v). I treat the first three as the same letter, and write them all as vartheta.

I'm pretty good at writing zeta, but small xi is still a struggle for me. I usually just replace it by epsilon if i'm not already using one.

Matterwave1
Posts: 226
Joined: Wed Aug 20, 2008 7:01 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I hate writing kappa and k, also i hate writing lower case xi ... I can never get the swirls right. (Also looks like lower case Zeta sometimes)

++\$_
Mo' Money
Posts: 2370
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2007 4:06 am UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
I use a tilde (~) instead of the proportional sign.
How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
Rho leans well over to the right, sits higher on the line, and the vertical stroke doesn't extend beyond the curved part. p stands up straight, sits low on the line, and the vertical stroke extends beyond the curved part (and is doubled, the way I write it).
What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
u, nu and v; my solution is that the sides of a v are both roughly straight or concave down, the sides of a u are concave up, and the sides of a nu are mixed (the left side is concave down).
epsilon and set membership ("\in"): epsilon is written like a backwards 3, while \in is written like a subset symbol with an extra line (but smaller).
Subset symbol and capital C: Subset is longer and the slope near the endpoints is zero.
varphi, psi: I still haven't figured this one out, really.
On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?
Learn to write your integrals and sums in textstyle (with the arguments to the right of the integral or sum); this creates a much more organized page. As for quotients, I try to squeeze them into one line when possible, but if that's not I either skip a line when I reach the end or (if I'm near the end or beginning of the line) just let them obliterate part of the succeeding line.

Perpy
Posts: 60
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2009 6:59 pm UTC
Location: Up north

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

I find that the most difficult thing in equations isn't separating to similar signs, but to distinguish two different values primarily expressed by the same letter. Like when my physics teacher did a complicated equations and ended up with two h's (height and Planck's constant). He had to correct the whole problem because, basically, nobody else had seen the mistake and corrected their notes. *Rant*

And, like others have mentioned, it's terribly easy to mix Greek letters with the Latin alphabet. I always have to write a very clear "tail" on the top of my small betas.
Last edited by Perpy on Sat Mar 07, 2009 6:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

Luthen
Posts: 2021
Joined: Thu Feb 21, 2008 6:42 am UTC
Location: Dealing with xkcdian immigration
Contact:

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:For those of you that occasionally have to pick up a pencil (or, dare I say it, a pen) I'd like to know how you tackle these issues:
• How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
• How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
• What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
• On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
• How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?
1. I wasn't aware they were different symbols, so I guess I do nothing
2. I write rho backwards (circle first) but put the tail out at a 30-45 degree angle
3. tiny epsilons and Es don't play nice. Other than that I try to avoid clashes. Still can't draw an acceptable xi though.
4. Generally complicated intergrals end up being written across two lines. I give them about 1.5-1.8 line's worth of space so there is an acceptable gap between them
5. Depends, generally lean towards a line for the numerator and one for the denominator when things get complicated.
My fancy new blog I am not a vampire! PM my location for a prize!*

rnew: ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOAVATAR!
*Terms + conditions changeable

GBog
Posts: 114
Joined: Fri Jun 01, 2007 4:57 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

For rho, I write something between [imath]\rho[/imath] and [imath]\varrho[/imath]. Slightly left-leaning and curving to the right at the bottom. Looks quite similar to a inverted 9, but dips below the line. I rarely confuse it with p.

[imath]\{[/imath] and [imath]\xi[/imath] might be my most similar glyphs, actually, especially if I'm sloppy.

aray
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2009 7:14 pm UTC

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

My tips:
Give your lowercase 't' a tail so it's obviously different from a '+'
Cross your 'z' so they don't look like a '2'

Ended
Posts: 1459
Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2007 3:27 pm UTC
Location: The Tower of Flints. (Also known as: England.)

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

the tree wrote:How do you make a sign for 'proportional to' ( [imath]\propto[/imath] ) not look like an alpha ( α )?
I write 'proportional to' like an infinity symbol missing the very right-hand curved edge. The tails on my alpha are shorter and the round part is circular rather than elongated.

How do you make the letter p look different to the letter rho ( ρ )?
I write 'p' so that the vertical stroke extends prominently above the top of the circular part. I write 'rho' from the bottom of the stem upwards then clockwise, in one stroke, with a little leftwards-facing tail at the beginning of the stroke.

What other seemingly similar symbols have you had to make suitably separate?
Capital U and lowercase u are a nightmare. I usually just make the capital U really really big.

On lined paper, do you leave a space between each line to allow for things like integrals that take up slightly more than a line?
How many lines should quotients take up? And where should they be centred?
Your puny "lines" hold no sway over me.
Generally I try to make myself do things I instinctively avoid, in case they are awesome.
-dubsola

majikthise
Posts: 155
Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2007 2:28 am UTC
Location: Bristol, UK

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

Number of lines taken per messy integral/fraction with nested subscripts is proportional to space left until the end of the page.
Nobody ever asks to borrow my notes.
Is this a wok that you've shoved down my throat, or are you just pleased to see me?

Why Two Kay
Posts: 266
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2008 6:25 pm UTC
Location: Plano, TX
Contact:

### Re: Tips on handwriting maths?

majikthise wrote:Number of lines taken per messy integral/fraction with nested subscripts is proportional to space left until the end of the page.

This. I find myself forcing myself to cram in more lines just so that I don't have 1 or 2 awkward lines in continuation on another page. Or worse I would have to create a brand new "oh no I just ran out of space" column, where you can always tell it was not planned and the organization looks terrible.
tl;dr - I said nothing important.

### Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests