Mastering Physics Help Pages

Entering Mathematical formulae, symbols, and units

Scott Hildreth - Chabot College


The following pages from the Mastering Physics Help System will help you learn how to use the system efficiently.  Please take the time to learn at least a few of the keyboard shortcuts, as they'll save you lots of time and frustration!

Answering math questions

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For assignment questions that you need to answer with some type of math, you will see one of the following types of answer boxes. The way in which you work in these answer box varies.

System requirement: Adobe Flash Player (Version 9.0.115 minimum, Version 9.0.124 recommended) must be available on the computer on which you are working. Linux users: Version 10 is required. You can download this from www.adobe.com.

Answer box with value and units

math_num_units_distance

Answer box with unit provided for you

math_ee_palette_numeric


Inserting special formats and symbols (in value with unit answers)

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These instructions apply to questions that ask for a value with unit. (View list of acceptable units)

math_num_units_distance

Inserting special formats (exponent, subscript, or fraction)

To enter a(n)... Click math_num_units_templates,
then select:
Or, enter a
keyboard shortcut:
Examples/Notes:
Exponent

(Superscript)

chem_ee_superscript

 

The non-exponent part (base)  in this icon is provided as a visual cue only. Enter the base before selecting this button.

 

^ To enter 32, either:
 
Type 3, click math_num_units_templates, select chem_ee_superscript , and type 2
Type 3^2
Subscript chem_ee_subscript

 

The non-subscript part (base)  in this icon is provided as a visual cue only. Enter the base before selecting this button.

_ (Shift+-) To enter 52, either:
 
Type 5, click math_num_units_templates, select chem_ee_subscript, and type 2
Type 5_2
Fraction chem_ee_fraction

 

To move between the top and bottom parts of a fraction: Use the arrow keys or reposition your cursor using the mouse (or other input device).

/ To enter math_ee_frac_sample, either:

 

Click math_num_units_templates, select chem_ee_fraction, and type 2chem_ee_d_arrow3
Type 2/3 (or /2chem_ee_d_arrow3)
 

When you finish adding values in any of these format templates: Press the right (chem_ee_r_arrow_small) or left (chem_ee_l_arrow_small) arrow key to move outside of the specially formatted area and to exit template insertion mode.

Inserting special symbols

To enter this symbol Click math_num_units_symbols, then select: Or, enter a
keyboard shortcut:
math_num_units_mu_bold math_ee_mu \mu
math_ee_pi_sample math_ee_pi \pi
math_num_units_omega_bold math_ee_upper_omega \Omega
math_num_units_dot (Centered dot) chem_ee_dot *
math_num_units_degree math_num_units_deg_blue \deg
math_num_units_angstrom math_num_units_angstr_blue \AA

When you finish adding special symbols: Press the right (chem_ee_r_arrow_small) or left (chem_ee_l_arrow_small) arrow key to move outside of the specially formatted area and to exit template insertion mode.

 

Entering symbolic math answers

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This type of answer box is for entering symbolic math answers without units. (Alternate instructions for Value with Units answer box)

math_ee_palette_symbolic

To enter symbolic math values in this type of answer box:

1. Click one of the menu options at the top left and then select the appropriate format template (such as chem_ee_fraction) or Greek letter or symbol button (such as math_ee_alpha).

-OR-
Enter the equivalent keyboard shortcut.

To view all keyboard shortcuts: Click math_ee_shortcuts.

2. Continue to formulate the symbolic expression as needed, using acceptable characters and symbols.
3. Press the right (chem_ee_r_arrow_small) or left (chem_ee_l_arrow_small) arrow keys on your keyboard to move beyond the specially formatted item.

 

General guidelines for working with math answers

Basic editing - To edit, select the Undo math_ee_undo, Redo math_ee_redo, and Reset math_ee_reset tabs, as needed. You can also cut, copy, and paste using standard keystrokes. (More info on selecting/editing)
Navigating within expressions - Press the arrow keys from your keyboard.
Type * for the multiplication operator. Do NOT use the letter x. Enter multiplication explicitly, that is, type 2*a*b, not 2ab. Use scientific notation, not e (which MasteringPhysics evaluates as a variable). For example, enter 1.23*10^5 instead of 1.23e+5.
Use commas only as separators between multiple expressions within a single answer box, such as “1999, 2009”. Do NOT use commas in any large number, such as 32000.
Order of expressions can affect grading - If a question asks for several answers in a particular order, such as numeric order, your answers must be in that order. (MasteringPhysics uses string matching to grade such answers.)
No spaces - The answer box does not allow you to enter spaces.
No units - The units part of the answer is provided outside your workspace, so you don’t have to enter this.

 

Inserting exponent, fraction, root, vector, etc.

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These instructions apply to entering math in the math answer box:

math_ee_palette_symbolic

When you finish adding values in any of these format templates:
Press the right (chem_ee_r_arrow_small) or left (chem_ee_l_arrow_small) arrow key to move outside of the specially formatted area and to exit template insertion mode.

To enter a(n)... Click math_ee_templates_menu,
then select:
Or, enter a
keyboard shortcut:
Examples/Notes:
Exponent

(Superscript)

chem_ee_superscript

 

The non-exponent part (base)  in this icon is provided as a visual cue only. Enter the base before selecting this button.

 

^ (Shift+6) To enter math_ee_x2_sample, either:
 
Type x, click math_ee_templates_menu, select chem_ee_superscript , and type 2
Type x^2
Subscript chem_ee_subscript

 

The non-subscript part (base)  in this icon is provided as a visual cue only. Enter the base before selecting this button.

_ (Shift+-) To enter math_ee_subscr_sample, either:
 
Type T, click math_ee_templates_menu, select chem_ee_subscript, and type i
Type T_i
Fraction chem_ee_fraction / To enter math_ee_frac_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select chem_ee_fraction, and type 2chem_ee_d_arrow3
Type 2/3 (or /2chem_ee_d_arrow3)

 

To move between the top and bottom parts of a fraction: Use the arrow keys or reposition your cursor using the mouse (or other input device).
 
Square root math_ee_sq_root \sqrt To enter math_ee_sqrt_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select math_ee_sq_root, and type x+y
Type /sqrtx+y
 
Nth root math_ee_nth_root \nrt To enter  math_ee_cuberoot_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select math_ee_nth_root, and type 3chem_ee_r_arrow_smalla
Type /nrt3chem_ee_r_arrow_smalla


 

To move between the parts of the Nth root:
Use the arrow keys or reposition your cursor using the mouse (or other input device).
 
Vector math_ee_vector \vec To enter math_ee_vec_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select math_ee_vector, and type F
Type \vecF
 
Unit vector math_ee_unit_vector \hat To specify math_ee_unit_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select math_ee_unit_vector, and type u.
Type \hatu

 

Absolute value math_ee_abs_value | (Shift + /) To enter math_ee_abs_sample, either:

 

Click math_ee_templates_menu, select math_ee_abs_value, and type y
Type |, then y, then |
 

Inserting Greek letters and other math symbols

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These instructions apply to entering symbolic math in the math answer box:

math_ee_palette_symbolic

 To insert lowercase Greek letters or the hbar symbol

To refer to this list while working: Click math_ee_shortcuts.

Convention for entering these keyboard equivalents:
Type a backslash (/) and then spell out the Greek letter or symbol name in lowercase.

 

Click math_ee_lower_greek,
then select:
Or, type from your
keyboard:
Click math_ee_lower_greek,
then select:
(cont'd)
Or, type from your
keyboard:
(cont'd)
math_ee_alpha \alpha math_ee_nu \nu
math_ee_beta \beta math_ee_pi \pi
math_ee_gamma \gamma math_ee_rho \rho
math_ee_delta \delta math_ee_sigma \sigma
math_ee_epsilon \epsilon math_ee_tau \tau
math_ee_eta \eta math_ee_phi \phi
math_ee_theta \theta math_ee_chi \chi
math_ee_kappa \kappa math_ee_psi \psi
math_ee_lamda \lambda math_ee_omega \omega
math_ee_mu \mu math_ee_hbar \hbar

To insert uppercase Greek letters or the EMF symbol

To refer to this list while working: Click math_ee_shortcuts.

Convention for entering these keyboard equivalents:
Type a backslash and then spell out the Greek letter name, beginning with an uppercase letter, or EMF in all uppercase.

Click math_ee_upper_greek,
then select:
Or, type from your
keyboard:
math_ee_upper_delta \Delta
math_ee_upper_sigma \Sigma
math_ee_upper_phi \Phi
math_ee_upper_psi \Psi
math_ee_upper_omega \Omega
math_ee_emf \EMF

 

Entering special functions

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This type of answer box is for entering special functions. (Alternate instructions for Value with Units answer box)

math_ee_palette_symbolic

 To enter a special function in this type of answer box:

Type the standard abbreviation in lowercase, according to the following list of available functions.

Special function abbreviation Meaning
acos or cos-1 arccosine
acot or cot-1 arccotangent
acsc or csc-1 arccosecant
asec or sec-1 cosecant
asin or sin-1 arcsine
atan or tan-1 arctangent
cos cosine
cot cotangent
csc cosecant
e Euler's number (2.71828...)
ln natural logarithm (base e)
log common logarithm (base 10)
sec secant
sin sine
tan tangent

To enter the exponent -1 in selected functions above: Type ^-1. (More info on entering exponents.)

 

About the arguments of special functions:

The argument of a function can be a number, variable, or more complicated math expression.
IMPORTANT: All arguments of trigonometric functions must be in radians, not degrees. That is, if a question asks you to find the x-component of a vector of length 10 at 30 degrees above the horizontal, MasteringPhysics will accept "10*cos(math_ee_pi_sample/6)", but not "10*cos(30)".