LaTeX notation#

LaTeX is the de facto standard mark-up language for mathematical notation. It’s syntactically very simple, but there’s a fairly steep learning curve in learning the names of commands.

In Numbas, inline maths (maths notation that sits on the same line as the surrounding text) is delimited either by dollar signs, e.g.:

Calculate the expansion up to the $x^4$ term.


Calculate the expansion up to the \(x^4\) term.

Display-mode maths, which is displayed on its own line and rendered less compactly, is delimited by \[ and \]. For example:

The quadratic formula is \[ x = \frac{ -b \pm \sqrt{ b^2-4ac } }{ 2a } \]


The quadratic formula is

\[x = \frac{ -b \pm \sqrt{ b^2-4ac } }{ 2a }\]

If you’ve never used LaTeX before, a couple of good places to start are the LaTeX maths Wikibook and the Art of Problem Solving LaTeX Guide. Bear in mind that LaTeX is only used for maths-mode, so the text-mode LaTeX commands don’t apply.

To find the command for a symbol you want to use, draw it in Detexify and it will show you the commands for the most similar-looking symbols.


Numbas uses MathJax to render LaTeX notation. The default Numbas theme loads MathJax from, a free service provided by a combination of sponsors.

If you’d like your exams to load MathJax from a different location, you can set your preferred URL in your account settings page: click on the account dropdown at the top-right of the page, then Settings. Any exams or questions you download from the editor will load MathJax from your preferred URL.