Tips for the Equation Editor in Instructure Canvas

May 14, 2012 by

I’ve been banging on Instructure Canvas for a week now, and I have to say that I’m incredibly impressed in general.  I don’t think I’ve ever said anything nice about a Learning Management System (LMS), but I have openly confessed my love for Canvas several times in the last week [more on that to come].  Last week was all about learning to use canvas with my TALDA guinea pigs.  This week is all about figuring out how to do MATH in Canvas.


NOTE: The Canvas discussion boards include avatars of students plus their names. I’ve blurred those out to protect the innocent (instructors pretending to be students).

The equation editor built in to the WYSIWYG editor in canvas is actually quite good.  I’ve had math instructors trying to break it all day, and we haven’t taken it down yet.  However, I did find that a cheat sheet for the Canvas Equation Editor would be helpful.  So I’ve made one.  You can find it under Resources / Handouts on this site.

You can add equations in announcements, on pages, in modules, and in discussion boards.  So can students.  By the way, you can also (supposedly) paste a LaTeX equation into the editor directly, but I have not verified that one myself.  Typing LaTeX commands right into the editor does not seem to work so well.

Hopefully we’ll figure out easy ways to add graphs using the WYSIWYG editor tomorrow.  Although you can embed on the instructor side, the students are unable to get to the HTML code to embed images, so we have to find a workaround for that.  Thirty smart math instructors in a room should be able to figure this one out!

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  1. Very handy, Maria! Familiarity with LaTeX makes using the equation editor that much easier, so I’ll definitely share this resource with Canvas users that I work with.

    So when you say “Hopefully we’ll figure out easy ways to add graphs…”, you’re referring to Graph Builder, which can be plugged in via LTI, right?

    • busynessgirl

      Well, we’re going to try that too, but sometimes we want handwritten stuff. So we’re trying to find a good workaround for using Jing with Canvas.

      Here’s what we’ve got so far:
      Use Jing to select the image.
      Share to screencast.
      Paste screencast link in new browser tab using Ctrl-V.
      Right-click on image in that new tab and select copy image.
      Paste image in discussion board in Canvas using Ctrl-V.

      This will get us ANY image into the Discussion Board (not just Graph Builder) but I’d like to narrow it down to less steps.

    • busynessgirl

      Also, although I installed Graph Builder and Sage last night, neither were appearing in the Discussion Boards. I think I missed a step somewhere. If you can provide step-by-step directions for doing it, that would be helpful.

      • Hi Maria, it’s easy to skip a step the first time through, because the External Tools options may be overwhelming at first glance. For anonymous tools such as Graph Builder…
        1. Copy the XML config URL from the Graph Builder example page
        2. In your Canvas course (or Sub-Account), go to Settings > External Tools and click Add External Tool
        3. Change Configuration Type to By URL
        4. Give the tool a name (e.g. “Graph Builder”), and a generic secret and key (e.g. “secret” and “key” — you’d have to be more elaborate with secure/non-anonymous LTI tools).
        5. Paste in the URL for Configuration URL
        6. Save Tool Settings, and you should be able to access the Graph Builder anywhere in the Canvas course or Sub-Account where you find the Rich Editor.

        Here’s a quick screencast of these steps if you prefer a visual!

  2. Maria, this is great. Super helpful. The folks here will be sharing this with other clients. Thanks for putting this together.

  3. Camille Fairbourn

    I can verify that pasting LaTeX works quite well, and that typing LaTeX expressions in IS wonky. I look forward to seeing what you come up with for graphs. I’ve got a workaround for students posting pictures in discussions, but its more clicks than yours. I’m investigating groups more this semester, which gives students access to the full suite of linking abilities. I’ll let you know if I figure something amazing!

  4. It says ‘free for teachers’. Is it free for the students too? When is it not free?

    • busynessgirl

      Yes. Free for both students and teachers. There are course-level analytics and other customization features (like integration with Datatel) that are NOT available in the free version. Canvas is SO sure that you will convince your campus to use it as a paid customer that they let any instructor teach out of it for free (and they’re right).

  5. Daniel

    This sounds really amazing! I´ve searched for like an hour, but I can´t find where I download the Equation Editor and the text editor that you use in your videos? Can you help me out please?

    Thanks a lot!

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